Advent, week two.
During this second week we are reflecting on the theme of peace. It seems to come right when we need it the most – December can be the exact opposite of peaceful! At the Martini house we have been making an effort to find peaceful moments as often as we can, but sometimes the rush of daily life ( a minor blizzard, or two…) gets in the way.
One peaceful family habit we have tried to focus on since October is a meaningful moment of gratitude before dinner every night. We started taking turns reading out of an old family book of daily graces (“A Grateful Heart” – thanks Mimi) and the tradition quickly became so popular with every family member that we sometimes have to have multiple readings.
Day by day the different quotes, prayers and readings seem to echo the significance and concern of our current daily life. When my turn came last Saturday, on the eve of the “peace” candle, this is what I read:
“By being attentive, by learning to listen (or recovering the natural capacity to listen) we can find our self engulfed in such happiness that it cannot be explained: the happiness of being at one with everything in that hidden ground of Love for which there can be no explanations… May we all grow in grace and peace, and not neglect the silence that is printed in the centre of our being. It will not fail us.” (Thomas Merton)
The imagery in this passage (“silence printed at the centre of our being”) was so striking to me that I spent some of my Sunday afternoon reading more about Thomas Merton, and discovering a bit of a kindred spirit. While many aspects of his life and writing are fascinating, the part that connected most with my thoughts about peace was his exploration of the depth of human experience and wealth of perspective available through a collaborative understanding of various faith traditions.
His philosophy is not just inspiring – in our current culture it is essential. How can we be at peace with ourselves, how can we create peace in our world, when we are overwhelmed with fear and misunderstanding? Even as we reconnect with our own spiritual roots and traditions we can draw on the mystical traditions of other religions in order to better understand ourselves, as well as our relationship with others and with God (or the “reality that is present to us and in us: call it Being…Silence.” (Thomas Merton – again – brilliant…)
Merton’s idea of peace in silence reminded me of another quote I return to often, from Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata:
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”
Two weeks ago, when coming back from a school field trip with Miss G., I sat with a friend on the bus to the ferry and talked about how we find time for peace in our busy grown-up lives. “You have to go to it,” she reminded me, emphatically. “It can’t find you unless you make time and space.” In her life peace comes in the silence of nature, and she makes time to seek it out every day…
Seeking out a peaceful moment, a peaceful thought or a peaceful time in this modern world is increasingly a challenge. Being a peace seeker, a peace keeper, a peace maker, has become almost counter-cultural. (Inspired by another amazing article about Jonathan Lear’s book Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation.) Peace, however, is imprinted at the centre of our being. We must not neglect it, and it will not fail us. Where do you go to find peace? Is it in the silence of nature, like my friend from the bus, or in the transcendence of music? Is it in the warmth and comfort of home with your loved ones, or in the rush of energy that comes with dancing, running, sledding, flying? Can you get yourself there today?
“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.” (Max Ehrmann)
(Art by primary students from Norma Rose Point School)