“Peace is the tranquility of order.”
St. Augustine, The City of God
There are few words that exercise such a power over our hearts, and our imagination.
A few years ago I was giving a lecture at a division-one university, introducing students to some basic points in medieval metaphysics—something to which they had not been exposed. I will never forget the moment I shared with them St. Augustine’s definition of peace. There was an audible sigh of amazement, almost as though they had just heard for the first time the key to life.
Well, perhaps they had. Is there any other concept, with its definition, that goes so immediately to the heart of life?
Peace. It’s what we crave. Something tells us that it is not found in simply avoiding conflict, or in ceasing to be busy or active. Peace is a positive reality, consisting more in what we do than in what we don’t do.
St. Augustine provides the positive vision: there is tranquility in order. Yes, as most great insights, in answering a question it raises more questions. Nonetheless it gives an anchor, and an angle from which to begin to understand and pursue true peace. There is an order we must discover and enact. Indeed, there are orders, all of which are themselves interwoven, in one great order of life.
Order always implies that each thing has its place; and when in their places, the parts and the wholes come alive.
There is an order for how to desire, and an order for how to think. There is an order for human friendships, and an order for our interior life. An order for living in a household, and an order for interacting with the broader community. An order for work, and an order for leisure.
And in discovering these orders, and in striving to enact them in our lives, and in the lives of others, an amazing reality descends upon us: the reality of peace, the tranquility of order.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.) was one of the greatest minds and most influential writers in early Christianity. In addition to his Confessions, the landmark autobiography in which he details his conversion from vanity and sexual immorality, he wrote numerous works in defense and exposition of his late-found faith, most notably The City of God.
Image: Bernardus Blommers (1845-1914), Dutch, A Family Dinner
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Thank you, John. Another beautifully simple piece of wisdom. I’m printing this one out to share. I have also read that peace is not a thing–it is a Person–the Person of the Holy Spirit. When you think of it, God’s own Spirit (His attitude so to speak) is the complete love and therefore trust between the Father and Son and this act of the will spirates complete Peace. It is also the Spirit, as Wisdom, who “orders all things mightily”. Just beautiful! A peaceful and joy-filled octave of Pentecost to you and your family.
Dear Laura, Thank you so much for this beautiful reflection–so fitting for this time. I really appreciate it, and I send all my best wishes to you and your whole family.
I needed this RIGHT NOW. Thank you!
This was such a beautiful post to read on a work day morning! The connection of peace, order, and tranquility is indeed something to be wondered. Thank you, Dr. Cuddeback!
Angela, I’m so glad to have brightened your work day morning. May your summer be filled with peace!
I second that! Such beauty. Classical excerpt, gorgeous art, true wisdom in one tidy package.
Thank you Lily!
I have no comment specific to this meditation on peace, but I wanted to say thank you, John, for your weekly reflections. I find them helpful on many levels and it is good of you to share some of your wisdom with us in this way every week.
Stephen, I am humbled and gratified by your kind words. I thank you, and I wish you and your family a very peace-filled summer.
One of my favorite lines for Advent is in O Come Emmanuel when we sing “ O Come Thou Wisdom from on high…Who orders all things mightily…” come right order my life Lord. Bring my life Peace! God bless you!
Thank you, Stephanie!