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  A Christian Faith Magazine January 2004, Volume 9, Issue 6  
On What Does Peace Depend?
Rev. Paul N. Check
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St Augustine
St. Augustine

The substance of peace is much more than the absence of conflict. Peace depends on respect for human dignity and on the exercise of the human virtues, especially the virtue of justice, according to which each person receives his rightful due. This brings us to St. Augustine's wise and complete definition of peace: tranquillitas ordinis, which means, "tranquility of order." The tranquility of order brings peace. St. Augustine's phrase indicates that there is an "order" according to which we can enjoy peace in this life, and his definition implies that we can discover and abide by this order. So there is another two-word phrase to assist us here: "human nature." When we live according to our human nature and if we treat others in accordance with our common human nature, we observe the proper order of things, and that will produce peace, peace in our souls, our families and our culture.

St. Augustine's definition of peace, tranquility of order, applies first, then, not to international relations, but to the soul and to its relation with God and to its relation with other souls. The human soul became disorderly when human nature was wounded by Original Sin. The effects of Original Sin that remain after Baptism produce the conflict we all sense interiorly between our good intentions and our sometimes less-than-noble or just plain selfish actions.

The Ten Commandments

How do we know if we are living according to our human nature, and so conducting ourselves rightly with others, especially God Himself? Where do we discover the order that will help restrain us from unruly appetites and selfish desires? From the book of Exodus, i.e. the Ten Commandments. God's initial remedy for the lack of tranquility of order introduced into the soul (and so into the world) by Original Sin was the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. God gave us the Ten Commandments to restore a proper understanding of human nature, i.e. how we are to live. To keep the Commandments is to keep peace: in the soul, among family members and friends, and within society. And Jesus, the Prince of Peace, made keeping the Commandments the test of our fidelity to Him, when He said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (Jn 14:15)

Of course, God knew well that our knowledge of order as contained by the Commandments would alone be insufficient to maintain peace in the soul and in human relations. And so part of the divine remedy for the soul's disorder in grace, comes to us through the Incarnation, God coming to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. The death of Our Lord on the Cross, and the blood flowing from His side, gained all the graces needed for us to live ordered, peaceful, holy lives. Our Lord's bride, the Church, continues to distribute those graces to the world on Christ's behalf, especially in the form of the Sacraments. So, to receive the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession, worthily and frequently, is helps maintain peace within the soul, with God and with each other.

I Am

Symbol of love never ending,
love that never began,
flow of a love never tending
to hallow the history of man.

No human voice ever spoke you:
You are the sign of our God.
No human mind can contain you,
but blest is the heart you have trod.

Sealed is its secret forever
in the depth of that touch by the lamb:
nor life nor death can e'er sever
the life of that heart with "I Am."

- Sister May Canisius, CSJ

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