Friday, July 4, 2008

Thick or Thin III: Considerations On the Meaning of Peace

Last Sunday as I sat amidst the liturgy, I began to listen for ideas of peace within the liturgy. A project like this takes a long time to see how peace is used and intended. Placing this within the context of the past few thick and thin discussions how does our liturgical peace line up with some of the biblical aspects of peace I have been discussing.

Peace is prominent in the Prayers of the People. The introduction to the prayer of the people reads; “Prayer is offered with intercession for the Universal Church, its members, and its mission, the Nation and all in authority, the welfare of the world, the concerns of the local community, those who suffer and those in any trouble, the departed.”

Form 1 begins, “With all our heart and with all our mind, let us pray to the
Lord, saying, “Lord, have mercy.”

For the peace from above, for the loving‑kindness of God,
and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

For the peace of the world, for the welfare of the holy Church
of God, and for the unity of all peoples, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.”

This is an intriguing division of peace? Peace from above is paired with matters of God’s love and salvation. Peace from above seems to be differentiated from the peace of the world which is paired with the welfare of the Church and unity among all people. Are we on the same track here with the thick and thin? If so, is it significant that the peace associated with tangible reality is petitioned for secondarily? If so, can we assume that the second, what I have been calling thin peace, emanates from the first or thick peace?

Form II petitions, “I ask your prayers for peace; for goodwill among nations;
and for the well‑being of all people. Pray for justice and peace.” Per our ongoing examination, it seems that this instance of peace, at least in casual observance, would fall under a thinner aspect of peace.

Form III petitions, “We pray for all who govern and hold authority in the nations
of the world; That there may be justice and peace on the earth.” Again, I would lean toward a thin or resultant peace.

Form IV petitions, “Guide the people of this land, and of all the nations, in the
ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another and serve the common good. Lord, in your mercy Hear our prayer.”

Form V petitions, “For all who have commended themselves to our prayers; for
our families, friends, and neighbors; that being freed from anxiety, they may live in joy, peace, and health, we pray to you, O Lord.” Form V is also an interesting case. My initial reading it seems as if this is concerned an inclusive thick reading; one that encompasses both matters of existential anxiety and the daily varieties. For me, this is a both/and situation.

Form VI peace is prevalent with multiple petitions. It begins, “In peace, we pray to you, Lord God.” How does this peace come about? Liturgically we have just celebrated the Eucharist which brings individual members together to participate as the earthly body of Christ while simultaneously participating in the reality of the Trinitarian life. It celebrates and participates in the reconciliation offered to humanity by God in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. To say, “In peace, we pray to you, Lord God” would suggest, at least in my perspective, an acknowledgement of the unity of Christ’s earthly body, our unity with Christ himself and ultimately through this unity, our access to God.

While we are on the Eucharist, I want to mention what immediately precedes its. Just prior to the Eucharist, the gathered congregation passes the peace following the priest.
“The peace of the Lord be always with you.
People And also with you.

How should we read this section? Thick or Thin? I am not sure, both or thick? And yet, preceding the passing of the peace is the confession of sin. A plea of peace in the confessions is certainly thick whereas the passing of the peace, would be the resultant enactment as a thin interpretation.

Form VI also petitions, “For this community, the nation, and the world; For all who work for justice, freedom, and peace.” Again this seems to be a fairly straight forward thin reading of peace.

All of this being said, the Prayers of the People, are filled with pleas for peace and justice. I have only scanned the actual usages of the word “peace” but it is intimately woven into the fabric of nearly every sentence.

What worries me, and suggests the necessity of this casual study for me, is that we too easily jump to the earthly peace and presume that it can be attained without, that which form 1 petitions as the “peace from above.” We should also be certain to claim “which above” this reality is, and not allow it to devolve into some vague spiritualism. We must be continually reminded that any earthly peace must flow out of our peace with God through Christ. The liturgy reminds us of this and the centrality of the Eucharist reminds us of its own necessity to our hopes for a unified church as a peacemaking instrument in the world.

Next week I think I will continue on this little topic again but in regards to my current reading of William T. Cavanaugh's Theolopolitical Imagination.