By Zachary Braddock
This is the third meditation in our series on the texts of the Mass. Two weeks ago we looked at the Collect for Purity, last week at the Prayer of Humble Access, and today we will look at the blessing.
The Peace of God, which passeth all understanding.
Very often, people fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus came to earth so that we would all be nice to each other and create a world where everything is calm and peaceful and works just the way we think it should work. But we know through Scripture that Jesus has not come to establish the peace the world wants, but rather the peace of God.
When the peace of God reigns, in our hearts and on earth, it will not look like a peacekeeping force riding in on a military transport. The true peace of God will be a world that is subject to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We get a glimpse of this in the writings of the Prophet Isaiah:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
and the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall feed;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:6-9)
This peace is not the peace imposed by man. It is a divine peace, which in the end requires not only the submission of the world, but also the submission of our hearts. God must rule first in our hearts; truly, that is much more difficult.
It has gone out of fashion to say that we war against “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” But it is true. If we truly believe the words of the gospel, if we truly believe the faith of our Fathers, which has been handed down to us, if what we do each Sunday morning is true and has meaning, then we engage against the Enemy. What are our weapons?
In his epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul bids us to prepare and gird up our loins with truth. Put on the breastplate of righteousness and take up the shield of faith, with which we cast aside the fiery darts of the Evil One. Respond to the thrusts of the Enemy with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God — Jesus himself, the Word Incarnate, and the Scriptures, the Word written.
Jesus gives us more tools: the Church, both our training ground and our field hospital, where we learn and grow in the faith, the place given us for our healing; the Sacraments, our spiritual medicine and nourishment.
These are the tools, Spirit-filled and given by grace, that make for peace.
Keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The blessing is an invocation, a hope, a foretaste of what is to come. We are to plant seeds of grace in ourselves and in the world. Those seeds of grace transform us. They help us to grow into the full stature of Christ. But like any seed they must be watered and tended. And then, just as we would plant more seeds to grow more flowers, we plant more of these seeds of grace out in the world, so that in time, every man, woman, and child may come to know Jesus Christ.
The blessing, the very last prayer of the Mass, is a reminder that what we do Sunday by Sunday does not end at the rail, or at the door, or at the end of coffee hour. It is only just beginning. This last prayer is just as wrapped up in the Eucharist as the first prayer, the Collect for Purity. During the blessing, we are still, for just another moment, taken up and brought, on a mystical level, to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. We enter the time of God, which transcends and fulfills the world’s time.
Right before the blessing, the priest or deacon says: “Depart in peace.” Go in peace. Go in the peace of Christ, which no man can fully comprehend. Go in the peace of Christ, which will rule over the peace of man. Go in the peace of Christ, in which a little baby in a stable is the King of Kings, to whom the Magi bowed down.
I often pray this prayer with the servers after Mass:
Grant, O Lord, that we who are thy soldiers here may enjoy thy peace hereafter; that the eyes which have looked upon thee in thy Sacrament of love may also behold the fruition of thy blessed hope; that the tongues which have sung thy praises may also speak the truth; that the feet which have stood in thy sanctuary may walk in the land of light; and that the bodies which have feasted on thy living Body may be restored in newness of life, to dwell with thee where thou reignest with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, in the Unity of the Godhead, King forevermore. Amen.
The Rev. Zachary Braddock is a graduate of Nashotah House Theological Seminary, and serves as curate at the Anglican Cathedral of the Epiphany in the Diocese of the Holy Cross, which is affiliated with Forward in Faith, North America. He blogs at 21st Century Anglican.