Pax vobis

It was the night of Easter. The apostles, extremely troubled, were in the Cenacle, the doors were closed, and they animatedly discussed the various apparitions of the Master. Suddenly Jesus Himself, in His natural form, appeared in their midst. Upright in His statuary figure, amiable and majestic at the same time, He addressed His affectionate greeting to them, that greeting which the shepherds had already heard in the fields of Bethlehem: Pax vobis — “peace be to you”!

But what peace is He speaking of here? What peace has the Redeemer left to His apostles? St Augustine defines peace as the tranquillity of order: Pax est tranquillitas ordinis. To understand well this definition, it is necessary to take a step backwards and return to the origins of mankind, when God created Adam as an “honest man”, with the gift of sanctifying grace and original justice. In the first man, therefore, all his faculties were perfect and harmoniously balanced. Having left perfectly from the hands of the Creator, in the virginal nature of man, the inferior powers were magnificently subordinated to reason, the reason to faith, and the whole being to God. There was, therefore, perfect order between the various human faculties, each one of which was perfectly balanced. From this perfect equilibrium came an unalterable peace, the true peace, because, as St Thomas affirms, “peace derives from the union of different appetites, which tend towards a single object.”

But then along came sin and this admirable order was upset. The union between the appetites was no more, and the tendencies of man were in conflict with each other: the flesh is against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; from this comes man’s disturbance. In order to regain peace, it is necessary to re-establish order and unity in the desires, so that the senses may be dominated by reason and the reason submissive to God. Until such order is renewed, there can be no peace: “You created us for Yourself, O Lord — and our heart cannot find peace until it rests in You.” 

Therefore, poor humanity, individually and collectively, will never find peace until the order originally established by God is reconstructed. But man, after having sinned, is unable to re-establish that perfect equilibrium desired by God. Thus, coming to the help of fallen man, hastens the Redeemer Jesus Christ, true God and true man, Who, taking upon Himself the sin of man to offer to His Father worthy expiation, reconciles sinful humanity with God. As St Paul eloquently writes, we were far from God, but now we have been brought near by the Blood of Jesus Christ, Who is our Peace (Cf. Eph 2:13–14). In Him, in fact, as the psalmist writes, justice and peace are reconciled (Cf. Ps 85:11). Jesus, therefore, is the Prince of Peace — Princeps Pacis (Is 9:5), the peaceful King Who grants us to participate in His merits, so that we may preserve the peace purchased again by His Blood.

In the days following the Resurrection, in every apparition, Our Lord Jesus gives peace to the apostles. Having expiated every sin by His Passion, He can now impart peace to them, that peace which He has reacquired through grace in His Blood. He gave the greeting of peace to His own at the dawn of His bloody sacrifice: “Peace I leave with you,” He said, “my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn 14:27); now He renews it when, after having immolated Himself, He inaugurates His glorious life: Pax vobis — “peace be to you!”

It is therefore in the grace of Christ that is to be sought the principle from which peace originates. In fact, it is Christ alone Who has ransomed us from sin; it is only by means of Christ that the grace of the Redemption comes to us: this is the order established by God. Therefore, if peace is the “tranquillity of order”, such order is to be found only in Jesus Christ, Who, by the Will of God, is our Justice, our Sanctification, our Redemption and, therefore, our Peace: Ipse est pax nostra. (Eph 2:14)

This is the marvellous order established by God: Christ, the Head of all the elect, Source of grace for all and Cause of peace: apart from this order, there is nothing but disturbance and danger for souls. The Scriptures admonish that those who do not want God are wicked and unable to find peace — Non est pax impiis — “there is no peace for the wicked” (Is 48:22). Though they appear to be satisfied in the vain satisfaction of their illusory desires, they never have true peace. Their heart, in fact, is empty: the fountains of natural joy from which they drink are unable to quench their thirst, because the intimate desires of their heart transcend them. It is useless to become wearied in seeking earthly goods: they do not satisfy man, because God has established a different order. We have been created for Him and our heart, which has a capacity for that which is infinite, cannot be satisfied by any creature. Apart from Him there is nothing but transient joy and illusory peace. “Why”, says St Augustine, “do you continue to travel painful and tiring roads? Rest is not there where you seek it; you go in search of it, it is true, but not where it can truly be found; you want to find it in the dwelling place of death; it is not here.” And he concludes, “He Who is Life, our Life, has descended amongst us.” In Him alone, in Christ Jesus, is the principle of true life, the source of peace.

To enjoy true peace, therefore, it is necessary not just to search for God, but to search for Him as He wants to be sought, that is, in Christ, because this is the fundamental order desired by Him according to that which is pleasing to His sovereign Will.

It is only from the Redeemer then that one can ask for the gift of His peace. “Lord,” exclaims St Augustine at the end of his Confessions — in which he tells how he sought for peace in all the satisfactions possible of the senses, of the spirit and of the heart, and found it in God alone — “Lord, give us peace, the peace of the seventh day, of the day which knows no dawn.” And, as on the eve of the glorious day of the Resurrection, from the divine lips of the risen Redeemer, will be repeated now as on that day, the wish for peace, the true peace, that which was acquired by His Blood: Pax vobis — “peace be to you”!