*Brian Wilcox. 'Mutuality & Harmony'
A member of the contemplative community I am vowed to, she was on her knees, distraught and praying. She said the distress was due to problems in her marriage. While kneeling, alone, she felt a light touch upon her shoulder. No one was there - at least, no one of this world. With the touch, she was clothed in perfect peace. From whence came the touch? The peace?
* * *
Catherine of Genoa (b. ca. 1447) -
When the self is made nothing and transformed, then it ceases from itself working, speaking, and willing; ... [And] in all things, God governs and guides it without the mediation of any created being. And it feels such fullness of peace, it seems to it that it's heart, body, and all within and without is immersed in an ocean of utmost peace.... And it is so full of peace, that though it presses it's flesh, nerves, and bones, only peace comes forth from them.
* * *
The Sage announced the talk for the evening gathering would be "The Way of Inner Peace." That evening, everyone gathered, and to their surprise the Sage spoke one sentence: "Don't seek peace, enjoy the One who gives peace."
The Lord dwells in the hearts of all creatures and whirls them round upon the wheel of maya [the illusory world]. Run to him for refuge with all your strength, and peace profound will be yours through his grace.
*Eknath Easwaran. Bhagavad Gita: 18.61-62
* * *
Cardinal Robert Sarah -
The monastic tradition calls "Great Silence" the nocturnal atmosphere of peace that is supposed to reign in the communal areas, as well as in each cell, ... so that each one is alone with God. But each person ought to create and build for himself an interior cloister, ... a private desert, so as to meet God there in solitude and silence.
*The Power of Silence
The spiritual life is about constructing this interior cloister, the inner sanctuary for the dwelling of peace. While peace is a gift, we consent to act to nurture the receptivity to receive the peace given. Otherwise, peace is present, while we do not live in peace. So, while monasticism may not be our calling, the priority on silence found in its wisdom can remind us that a spirit at peace does not just happen. Nor does inner peace come only by praying for it. We cannot rightly ignore our inner life and complain or blame for our lack of peace. When we are prepared to receive peace, we will know peace. This inner sanctum is to be tended to daily and nightly, for it is not once-and-for-all in place. If we become lax in our spiritual nurturing, lack of peace will remind us to return Home and tend it intentionally and reverently.
This longing for peace is what partly led to my taking contemplative vows in 1995. At this time, before being vowed, I sat in a meditation group. The leader, a spiritual director at the community site, informed us to follow a story from the Gospels. In it, some of John the Baptist's disciples are given, by him, instruction to follow Jesus, who was walking by. They began following him. He turned around, saying, "What do you seek?" Our guide informed us to imagine this scene. Each of us was to see himself or herself walking after Jesus. We were to see Jesus turn around and ask, "What are you seeking?" We were to be quiet and wait for the response to arise from within us. The answer would form the basis of our mantra, or prayer word, for Centering Prayer. Envisioning the scene, I saw Jesus look back to me, asking, "What are you seeking?" In the silence, "Peace" arose. For many years after this, "Peace" was my prayer word for meditation. I longed for peace. Shortly after, I took vows to a contemplative life, to build an inner cloister and care for it for the rest of my earthly life.
Peace is free, but peace is costly. Peace is worth it. I am so glad I made that decision, and a life lacking peace, with much inner distress - anger, depression, anxiety -, has been transformed, by Grace, into peace. This does not mean I am always at peace; yet, the inner cloister is present, and I can return there to breathe and be peace again.
* * *
Many artists joined in a contest of paintings of peace. The judges looked at the paintings; they chose two pictures from which to select the best painting.
One picture was of a calm, serene lake. The lake reflected the peaceful mountains towering beside it and, above them, a pale blue sky dotted with soft, white clouds. The audience surmised this to be the perfect picture of peace.
The other picture had mountains too. These were rugged and stark and against a stormy dark sky from which rain fell. The storm clouds roiled. And rushing down the side of the mountain was a tumbling, frothing waterfall. The onlookers did not think the picture peaceful at all.
Then, the audience looked more closely, as did the judges. One could see, behind the waterfall, a tiny bush in a crack in the rock. In the bush, a mother bird had built her nest. There, amid the sound of the boisterous fall of water, sat the mother bird on her nest, safe and peaceful.
* * *
(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020