Sunday, December 22

O Come, O Come Emmanuel [9th century Latin]

O come, Desire of nations, bind
all peoples in one heart and mind;
bid envy, strife, and discord cease;
fill the whole world with heaven's peace.
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel

Perhaps there is no more needed or yearned for blessing than peace.  The O Antiphon for today gives voice to that ache we feel for a world in which envy, strife, and discord cease; and the whole world is filled with heaven's peace.  The antecedent to that peace, however is that we might all be of one heart and mind.  The apostle Paul describes that mind of Christ in the second chapter of his letter to the Philippians.  He quotes a hymn of his day writing:

“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,  make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross."

The mind of Christ is a mind that is energized by the demands of love.  It does nothing from selfishness ambition or conceit and in humility regards others with admiration.  Christ's mind is a mind which looks not to its own interests but is obedient to the demands of love as it tends to the needs of others.

Perhaps we have so little peace because we so rarely have the mind of Christ.  That is certainly the conclusion to which some of the great saints of the 20th century arrived.  Mother Teresa wrote:

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

And Thomas Merton, in the wake of WWII and at the start of the Cold War in 1949 wrote:
“If men really wanted peace they would sincerely ask God for it and he would give it to them.  But why should he give the world a peace which it does not really desire?  The peace the world pretends to desire is really no peace at all.

To some men peace merely means the liberty to exploit other people without fear of retaliation or interference.  To others peace means the freedom to rob others without interruption.  To still others it means the leisure to devour the good of the earth without being compelled to interrupt their pleasures to feed those whom their greed is starving.  And to practically everybody peace simply means the absence of any physical violence that might cast a shadow over lives devoted to the satisfaction of their animal appetites for comfort and pleasure.

Many men like these have asked God for what they thought was "peace" and have wondered why their prayer was not answered.  They could not understand that it actually was answered.  God left them with what they desired, for their idea of peace was only another form of war.  The "cold war" is simply the normal consequence of our corrupt idea of a peace based on a policy of "every man for himself" in ethics, economics, and political life.  It is absurd to hope for a solid peace based on fictions and illusions!

So instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and love God above all.  And instead of hating people you think are war makers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war.  If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed — but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”

Daily Collect:
Lord of peace, you come to bind the nations together in your love and justice.  We yearn for the peace you offer even as we acknowledge how hard it is for us to live with Christlike mindsets.  So come, desire of nations, come.  May the whole world come to know your peace and may we join you in the noble work of reconciliation.  In the name of the One who brings peace and challenges us to be bearers of that peace daily, our Lord.  Amen.

Paul Lang