CHRISTMAS REFLECTION: This Is Truly Peace by John Donne

This Is Truly Peace by John Donne

From The Showing Forth of Christ

The whole life of Christ was a continual passion; others die martyrs but Christ was born a martyr.  He found a Golgotha (where he was crucified) even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after and the manger as uneasy at first as his cross at last.  His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day.  And as even his birth is his death, so every action and passage that manifests Christ to us is his birth.

Every manifestation of Christ to the world, to the church, to a particular soul, is an Epiphany, a Christmas Day.  Now there is nowhere a more evident manifestation of Christ than in that which induced this text: “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace.”  It had been revealed to Simeon (whose words these are) that he should see Christ before he died.  And actually, and really, substantially, essentially, bodily, presentially, personally, he does see him; so it is Simeon’s Christmas Day.

Contending ourselves with so much therein as was according to his word, and not inquiring farther than God had been pleased to reveal; and having reflected all these several beams upon every worthy receiver of the sacrament, the whole choir of such worthy receivers may join with Simeon in this antiphon, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace.”

Neither can we at any time be fitter to make and obtain this wish than when our eyes have seen his salvation in the sacrament.  At least make this an argument of your having been worthy receivers thereof, that you are in an evenness, in an indifferency, in an equanimity whether you die this night or no.  Who can fear the darkness of death that has had the light of this world and of the next too?  Who can fear death this night that has had the Lord of life in his hand today?  Origen asks, “When will you dare to go out of this world, if you dare not go now, when Christ Jesus has taken you by the hand to lead you out?”  This then is truly to depart in peace by the gospel of peace to the God of peace.  If you did depart from that Table in peace you can depart from this world in peace.  And the peace of that Table is to come to it with a contented mind and with an enjoying of those temporal blessings which you have, without usurping upon others, without murmuring at God; and to be at that Table in the peace of the church, without the spirit of contradiction or inquisition, without uncharitableness toward others, and then to come from that Table with a bosom peace in your own conscience, in that seal of your reconciliation, in that sacrament; that so, riding at that anchor and in that calm, whether God enlarge your voyage by enlarging your life, or put you into the harbor by the breath, by the breathlessness of death, either way, east or west, you may depart in peace, according to his word, that is, as he shall be pleased to manifest his pleasure upon you.

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