Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Church Fathers on Peacemaking

Today I spent a few hours working on some background research for my thesis and worked through what the Church Fathers said in regard to Matthew 5:9. What does "blessed" mean? "Who are the peacemakers?" "To what extent does peacemaking go?"

I came across a letter from St. Jerome written to Theophilus, the bishop of Alexandria in 399 A.D. Apparently, St. Jerome and John of Jerusalem were having a tiff over various theological and ecclesiastical matters (that I won't get into here). What I want you to see is the beauty of Jerome's language and the vivid pictures he creates with his words.

St. Jerome in his study

"You have quoted many passages from the sacred books in praise of peace, you have flitted like a bee over the flowery fields of scripture, you have culled with cunning eloquence all that is sweet and conducive to concord. I was already running after peace, but you have made me quicken my pace: my sails were set for the voyage but your exhortation has filled them with a stronger breeze. I drink in the sweet streams of peace not reluctantly and with aversion but eagerly and with open mouth."

I wish that today's peacemaking could carry that same spirit. Sadly, the history of mankind is less one of generosity and more of selfishness and defiance between each other. Cyprian gives us the character of a biblical peacemaker in his First Treatise on the Unity of the Church.

"If we are fellow-heirs with Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are sons of God, we ought to be peacemakers. "Blessed," says He, "are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the sons of God." It behoves the sons of God to be peacemakers, gentle in heart, simple in speech, agreeing in affection, faithfully linked to one another in the bonds of unanimity."

My wish for the church would be to take up the example of our church Fathers. Set your sails for peace. Be gentle in heart, simple in speech, agreeing in affection, and linked in the bonds of unity.

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