Pax Intrantibus

Fr. Adrian Burke, OSB
Thursday, September 24, 2020

"In this way all the members will be at peace." 
Rule of St. Benedict 34.5

Peace is a quintessential Christian virtue; you find it everywhere in the writings of the Apostles: If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all people  (Rom 12:18); Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and pursue it  (1 Pet 3:11); Pursue peace with all, as well as holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14).

In his famous "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus includes this: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Matt 5:9). And St. Paul ranks peace third behind love and joy among the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22).

Given that St. Benedict sprinkles his Rule liberally with scriptural quotations and allusions, it is not surprising that he places a premium on peace, insisting that monks should never give to one another a "hollow sign of peace" (RB 4.25), and must welcome all guests as Christ, praying together so as to be united in peace, and greeting the guest with the "kiss of peace" as a sign of communion in mind and heart (RB 53.4-5).

How does one establish this communion of mind and heart? For Benedict, it's the discipline of his Rule - by renouncing oneself (RB 4.10), by pursuing not what one judges better for oneself, but for others and by supporting with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses of body or behavior (RB 72.5-7), and as reflected in his "Ladder of Humility" from chapter 7, by being content with the most menial treatment, and by regarding oneself as inferior to others (RB 7.49; 51); guarding oneself at every moment from sins of thought or deed (RB 7.12) and by putting aside one's own concerns, harboring neither hatred, nor jealousy of anyone, and doing nothing out of envy, avoiding quarreling, shunning arrogance, respecting elders, loving the young, praying for enemies and making peace before the sun goes down with anyone with whom one's had a dispute … striving to do all this out of love for Christ  (RB 4.65-73).

WOW! Now that's quite a list, but it isn't exhaustive. I could have written much more regarding what makes for peace in the Rule of St. Benedict. So what is peace? Peace is what happens when people respect one another's dignity as persons despite differences of opinion, personality, and behavior … skin color, religious affiliation, nationality or ethnicity.

Peace is the quality of existence that occurs when one has perceived the truth that sets us free from the fear and anxiety that divides, and that Truth for St. Benedict is Christ. If one strives to do these things "out of love for Christ" (RB 4.72), one will more freely be able to receive (i.e., love) the other - the guest, the neighbor, the brother or the sister, the co-worker, the stranger, even the enemy - as Christ himself, which for St. Benedict is the source and ground of all human dignity and personhood.

So, yes, "Peace" is the perfect Benedictine motto, summarizing what we're all about and a blessing on all our guests: Pax intrantibus - Peace to all who enter!