That phrase, “desire for peace,” resonated with me as I was reading the first sentence of an article about peace. It appeared in a new journal series I am reading to figure out whether it would be a useful addition to some of my teaching. By and large, I have not found the articles very helpful, so I admit that I may not have been reading some new stuff with much expectation of good results. And I recognize that may not be a very good approach to new reading material or, perhaps, to life.
Not only was the phrase a good one, but also the entire first sentence was arresting. The sentence reads, “The desire for peace is a holy longing.” I realized I had stopped after reading that sentence and re-read it. That was my clue that something had resonated. Usually I read along fairly quickly. I am confident we can read, take in information and not be affected by what we are learning. Reading the phrase inside this sentence was different.
I read it, but I am not sure I took in information. When one takes in information, there is an implicit, “Oh, that’s good to know,” and move on to the next idea. If we think of a beginning class, we could imagine reading the first chapter and learning that mixing hydrogen and oxygen will give us water. Again, we say something like, “Oh, that’s interesting to know,” and we move on. Knowing that hydrogen and oxygen constitute water does not significantly change our lives---even though we are dependent on water for life!
That sentence resonated with me not because I took something in, but because I realized there was something to take in. And I also realized that I don’t think I have taken “it” in yet. In fact, I was not sure what “it” would be that I could take in. This was the arresting effect the sentence had on me. There was something to learn, but I felt like I did not know what “it” was that I was to learn. And if I did not know “it,” I could not possibly have learned yet.
The sentence was an impression, but not yet information. I needed to spend some time with the sentence. I needed to let my soul soak in it. I knew whatever “it” would be was going to take me deeper into my soul than mere information usually goes. I sensed the “it” was going to be a deeper truth---a spiritual truth. It would not be a mere informational fact. It would a formative truth that demand to be lived out.
I returned to ponder the sentence: “The desire for peace is a holy longing.” I like grammar. It reveals things to me and to anyone who pays attention. The sentence was what my old English teacher said was an intransitive sentence. The verb, “is,” connects two equal parts. The parts are “desire for peace” and “holy longing.” In effect, the verb “is” says they are equal or the same thing. Because this is true, you can say it either way. The desire for peace is a holy longing or a holy longing is a desire for peace.
I am sure some of my attraction to this sentence was the words, “desire” and “longing.” Both of those words are profoundly spiritual for me. In fact, I know one way I would define spirituality is to describe it as human desire. It is human desire for meaning and for purpose. Longing adds to the pulse of spirituality. Both of these words are insisting and urging words. But they are not commandments or compulsions. One can choose to ignore desire and pay no attention to longing. Just so, we can ignore our spirituality and choose to live some other kind of life besides the spiritual.
I also find the language of desire and longing to be the language of the heart. It is heart language for me, not head language. As such, the desire for peace and the holy longing are not ideas. They are much more than ideas. They are callings. They are the Spirit’s call to us and on us to live a particular kind of life, namely a life of peace.
Peace (Shalom in Hebrew, Pax in Latin) is more than simple absence of conflict. Peace is more than a feeling. Shalom is a life rooted and grounded in the very Presence of the Holy One. It is life lived in tune with the Spirit’s desire for us. Pax is that pacific calling to live as deep in the Living Water as we can possibly live.
Peace is deeply spiritual. Although I am not Roman Catholic, I like going to Mass. And one of my favorite spots in the Mass is right before Holy Communion when the congregation passes the peace. It has immense symbolic power for me. I get to turn to my neighbor and say, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” And the neighbor then says, “And with your spirit.” That is the peace of friendship, of community and of the kingdom.
When we can muster this desire for peace, then we truly are praying that “thy kingdom come.’ The desire for peace is a longing to become a peace-maker---the hope of the world.