The Peace of Christ: A Simple Contemplative Practice

This article is a continuation of the one I wrote last week about the relationship between Wisdom and Christ. You can read that article by clicking HERE. The practice I describe in this article uses the Trinitarian metaphysics of Eriugena to interpret the gospel of John. You can read more about Eriugena’s understanding of the Trinity HERE.

In Christian theology there is a third person who works alongside the Mother and the Son – the Holy Spirit. The words in Hebrew and Greek that we translate as spirit both mean breath or wind. Genesis 1 tells us that there was a wind hovering over the face of the deep and this can be understood as the Holy Spirit.

For Eriugena, this breath or wind is part of God’s speaking the world into being. He says, “Whoever speaks emits breath in the word that he utters; so too God the Father, at one and the same time, gives birth to the Son and, by the birth of the Son, produces the Spirit.” (Trans by Davies)

For Eriugena, the Holy Spirit is the principle of life and vitality. God blows the Spirit of Life through Wisdom and in this all things are created. Wisdom is the truth of goodness and beauty, the Spirit is what animates this truth and gives it life.

Just as it is in the cosmos, it is in our souls as well. The Holy Spirit is what gives life to Wisdom in our hearts. It animates our nature bringing vitality and fertility to our inner being. The presence of the Holy Spirit is the growth of wisdom in the human heart and it is through Wisdom that we receive it. They work together as one to dispel the shadows of foolishness. The light shines in the darkness and what comes into being from this light is the life of all people. 

In the gospel of John, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, he appears to his disciples and gives them the breath of life. Jesus’ followers were being persecuted just as he had been and so the disciples hid in a room with locked doors where no one could get to them. There, in the solitude of their sanctuary, Jesus appeared to them and spoke with them saying, “Peace be with you.” Then he showed them the wounds in his hands and side and breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is the breath of God that we receive through the Word of God. It is the Spirit of peace.

When we are being persecuted by our own thoughts and feelings, we can seek sanctuary in our inner room by the prayer of recollection. The root of the passions is fear and the peace that Wisdom bestows dispels that fear. Just as Christ healed the fear of the disciples by breathing the peace of the Holy Spirit onto them, we can bring peace to our passions by the wise use of our breath.

Taking a gentle breath in and then a somewhat slower breath out we can release our tight grip and relax into the gifts that Wisdom gives us. As you breathe out, say the word “peace” gently with your inner voice and bring to mind the love Jesus showed his frightened disciples. Allow the single word “peace” to carry within it the virtues of humility, love, hospitality, compassion, detachment, and faith – for they are the virtues that lead us into peace.

The Holy Spirit is the single source from which all the virtues arise. Every virtue is contained within the peace that Wisdom bestows upon us. Therefore, when we breathe peace into ourselves and speak the single word “peace” with our inner voice, we are remembering all of the virtues together as one.

This unified remembrance is not a diligent meditation on the meanings of each virtue, nor is it a reflection on the ways they are present or lacking in our souls. Rather, we feel the presence of the virtues as if they were congealed into a lump – not as separate and distinct but consolidated together into an undivided whole. Allow the single word “peace” to represent this lump. 

With a blind affection, awaken the condition of peace within your soul. Allow the feeling of peace to wash over your naked being, revitalising and cleansing your inner person. Show a great gentleness towards yourself and remember that God is always with you. Rekindle your affection for the image of God in the depths of your heart.

In that affection, the Spirit of God will teach you everything. Stand firm in that assurance and set aside every fear, lifting up prayers of thanksgiving instead. If you do this the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. When our souls are at peace with themselves, the face of the Prince of Peace is revealed within us and we become united as one.

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