For the Peace of the Whole World

The first three petitions of the Orthodox great litany have a common theme:

In peace, let us pray to the Lord.

For the peace from above and for the salvation of our souls…

For the peace of the whole world…

Biblical scholar Michael Gorman comments:

the peace of the church is not merely for insiders, for life within the body of Christ; its inner life spirals out into the world. Paul already makes this centrifugal dimension of the church peace clear early in his writing career when he urges the Thessalonian believers to practice peacemaking (1 Thess. 5:13b) by “not repay[ing] evil for evil” and by “do[ing] good to one another and to all” (1 Thess. 5:15), which reemphasizes the prayer of 3:12: “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.”  (Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission, Kindle  4097-4101)

It was the heavenly hosts who announced to the world that the coming of the Messiah meant peace – between God and humanity:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”  (Luke 2:13-14)

As others have pointed out, Jesus  in the Beatitudes said “Blessed are the peacemakers,” not the peace lovers.  Our task is not merely to love peace, but to make it.  We pray for peace for the world, and agree to be those who make it happen.

4 thoughts on “For the Peace of the Whole World

  1. Stephen

    Fr., bless! I very much enjoy liturgical commentary, and have a question. How important is it for an Orthodox communicant to know what one is required to believe that CANNOT be discerned by the public prayers? I don’t know what the accurate percentage is, but what percentage of our faith must one believe that is not to be found in the liturgical life of the Church? 10%? 20%? 0%?
    And whatever the percentage is, does that carry the same weight as what can be discerned in public prayer?
    Put another way, what must I believe to honestly consider myself to be a faithfully communing member of the Orthodox Church that is in pronouncements and concilliar decrees, and NOT to be found in the the liturgical life of the Church?

    1. Fr. Ted

      I don’t know those percentages. One needs only to believe or do that which brings about salvation – union with God. One needs to believe only that which brings one into line with God’s love or helps one love others as Christ loves you. I’m not sure there is any way to measure this love and it seems that Christ tried to move us away from quantifying love. As James says in his epistle, even demons believe God is one, but they are not transformed by that belief. They don’t love – right belief isn’t enough.

      1. Stephen

        Thanks Fr. Ted, that bit from St. James is excellent.

        You wrote “One needs to believe only that which brings one into line with God’s love or helps one love others as Christ loves you.” Where does one go to learn and hear what the “that” is which you reference? Is it just in public prayer? In only books? A mix?

        We talk of “as we pray, so we believe.” Which, if true, would lead one to think that all the “that” can be found in the liturgical life. Which would be ideal, it seems to me. But, maybe not.

      2. Fr. Ted

        I don’t think there is any one formula which works for all people. People learn in very different ways, which means they get what they need from different sources and apprehend things to differing degrees. Some are inspired by icons, others less so. Some love the liturgy, some rely on dogmatics. Some are inspired from the lives of the saints, others find the miraculous to be the source of their skepticism. Some rely on the bible, others are inspired by the poetry of the hymns. Some find even an empty Orthodox church to be beautiful and to reveal heaven, others only encounter that with the best liturgy and choir. Some find the bible or the church fathers confusing – you have to wade through rhetoric or incomprehensible texts to find a few gems, and they don’t think it is worth it. Some want clear rules and rituals so they know exactly what to do. Some find peace in confession.
        The church practices its medicine of healing souls as an art – it has many healing balms, and the work of the church is to try to find for each person what heals their souls – what removes everything that is an obstacle to salvation. There is no one size fits all. Just like in modern medicine, doctors learn the art of trying different medications, diets, exercise, fasting, all to help a person heal, so too the Church has many means at its disposal to help a person come to salvation.
        Some find the healing very quickly, first liturgy speaks to them. Others need all the helps that are available in order to fully see the light. The liturgical life is rich, the scriptures are deep, the writings of the fathers vast, the experience of the prayer life immense, the lives of the saints show how different people find their way to salvation. Because something in the church really speaks to you, it may not to another person.
        The goal is the same for all, but the paths to get there vary. Not everyone needs all that is available to them, but some need every aid to move them just a little. Some can read just one story from the desert fathers, a counter intuitive story, and they get it and are on the path to salvation. Others have to go to seminary and read enough to get a Master’s degree and still are not sure.
        I do think there are people who can find all they need in the liturgy of the Church, but not everyone can. Some find it in the Liturgy but only when they are able to attend it often and for many years.
        When we find a favorite recipe, we don’t just eat it once and then savor it for the rest of our life – we make that meal again and again, and don’t tire of it, because each time we are enriched and thrilled by it. I think that is the truth of the Liturgy too. Each time we experience it we enjoy it to the full. So there is no easy way to pin down exactly what it is that inspires us because each experience is an experience of the fullness of the Truth.

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