Pax Christi or Pax Romana – what’s your pleasure?

The following is a preview of an¬† article I wrote for the launching of Tim Huff’s new website (the site goes public Jan 1 | 2010). I slipped some proud Grampa pictures in just because ūüôā

Nanci and Pax
Nanci and Pax

It seems entirely appropriate to be reflecting on Peace this snow-chilled day,¬† nestled¬† snugly between Christmas and New Years;¬† especially this year as¬† Nanci¬† and I have been so pleased to welcome our newest grandchild, born December 15,¬† and aptly named… Pax.

Grandlads Pax and Luca
Grandlads Pax and Luca

Pax, Latin for peace,¬† makes for a nice name.¬† Pax Carlo actually – which means “peace man.”¬† We could use some peace men and peace women.¬† But what kind? I wouldn’t have thought about it in these terms had our grandson been named otherwise, but the second I heard the name I jumped in delight before quickly becoming sober as I realized the most recognizable word that follows Pax, in the western lexicon, is Romana.¬† Pax Romana – that dreadful absence of conflict ensured by a threatened crushing violence¬† (morally indistinguishable from the violence it would seek to suppress) on any perceived internal or external dissent.

I’ve recently been to Turkey and visited some of the ruins of Rome’s glory.¬† I was there with a historian who robbed us of our delight when he detailed the brutality of the few (over and against the many) that made for such “glory.”¬† Pax Romana was child of a world-view which held that peace is only accomplished by raw power securing those who wield it over and against those who threaten it. Sound familiar?¬† Self-securing peace. Peace wrought by might.¬† And it sort-of worked, if you happen to be one of the few elite who had access to it. For the rest, for the multitudes, it was miserable, humiliating¬† and impoverished servitude –¬† or exile –¬† or death.

Church of the Nativity | Bethlehem
Church of the Nativity | Bethlehem

There is another Pax though. Pax Christi – the peace of Christ.¬†¬†¬† Perhaps best apprehended if thought of¬† as a polemic against Rome’s self-securing peace.¬† Mary’s Magnificat seemed to intuit what this could mean – that human might is illusion. And human constructs, ones that sustain elitism and social alienation, are but smoke before the One who refused to challenge Rome’s presuppositions on its own terms.¬† Rather,¬† Christ completely submitted to self-securing raw power, even unto death. He let it utterly succeed. And then, upon his rising, exposed it for the sham it has always been.

Bedtime Stories
Bedtime Stories

And then come his words – and I begin to weep as I type: “My peace I give you. My peace I leave you.”¬† And as for the content of his peace?¬† True peace, according to the witness of Christ, is accomplished when we give ourselves over for the flourishing of others. When we say “Shalom” to the other, and then actually invest ourselves in their fully-orbed well being. Pax Christi has nothing to do with the absence of conflict, but rather a deeply, secure confidence¬† in the love of God which enables us to forgo anxious self-securing (even in the presence of conflict) and offer our peace to the other and for the sake of the other.

I am reasonably convinced we simply cannot secure peace for ourselves, we can only give ours to the other¬† without any guarantee of return. But return isn’t the issue when our own peace resides in the same place that Christ found his – the self-donating, death-defying love of God.

It is not my job to avoid conflict – or to ensure (given the inevitability of conflict) that I come out on top. It is my job, or at least a good New Year’s resolution,¬† to attend to the deep down love of God that secures me beyond all threat; to learn to trust that love the way a child learns to trust her legs, so that when the time comes, she¬† might run a marathon. It is my job, for the sake of those who I love so dearly, to do the work now so that when the time comes, and peace is needed, I’ll have some to offer up.

I have work to do.  Join me.


me 'n Luca
me 'n Luca

12 thoughts on “Pax Christi or Pax Romana – what’s your pleasure?

  1. Happy New Year … i enjoy your music very much and my Passion is Jesus…Blessings in all you do and say ….as we journey towards home….

  2. Thank-you Steve. What a timely reflection for this time of year.

    I would add that we face this challenge during minor everyday conflicts, not just when we’re battling major injustice. I am all too quick to stand up for my rights and “defend what’s mine”, at times when Christ is calling me to be a giver of undeserved peace.

    And isn’t that what Grace is all about?

    reply from Steve: Thanks Steve – that’s exactly what I was hoping would come across. In my own experience, it is easy to champion peace and justice “abroad” and much more difficult to accomplish at home or within. But if peace isn’t first accomplished and flow from depths of soul, and move outward from there, I’m not sure our external efforts will have lasting import.

  3. Interesting perspective on the kind of “peace” that is forced upon people – even to this day

  4. This is a message I cannot hear too often.
    Thank you for reminding and encouraging me to keep trying to learn to trust (shouldn’t I know how by now?) in the security of God’s promises and in the worthiness of Christ’s calling to follow Him, as he is the Way, also called Peace.

  5. Steve, so profound yet so understandable and heartwarming. You have really situated the depth of what Christ’s peace is all about. Dorothee Solle in her book “Thinking About God.” centers her chapter 13 -Theology of Peace- around Pax Christi and Pax Romana. When we look at events today it is not hard to see the much thru these lenses. Again your works are much appreciated. Have a peace filled New Year.

  6. That was as wonderful, well written, and profound as anything I’ve stumbled across this year (and this year has nearly passed! Happy New Year!) and I thank you. I, too, shall join you in the quest of “Pax Christi” in my life so I can share it with others… +v

  7. Pax Christi is obviously the way to go and something we should all be working towards and telling our elected officials about at regular intervals. The deaths yesterday of Michelle Lang and at least 10 soldier including four more Canadians only underline this. Peace from the barrel of a gun or the blade of a bayonet never endures.

  8. Congratulations on the c=recent birth of your grandson!
    I wish you and your family all the best in the new year.
    Marina Pratt

  9. Such beautiful grand kids. We need to be among children to remember what is truely important.

  10. How is it you tug gratitude from my bumpy soul ? The bedtime stories pic is precious, and I will always feel comfortable weeping for sentiment when I think of you crying like a wiener at Paz’s birth.
    Stuart told us at the VAC service that we cannot rely on reason, falling back on faith and dabbling in mystery. When Stuart asked his mentor why did pastors burn out he was told they have to first turn to mystery, then faith and finally to reason.
    Isaiah 40 – Comfort my people..Stuart said remember this, we are fragile and life is short, we need all the help we can get. My feeling was one of tenderness and awe. I appreciate my church, my pastor the fine fine teacher that he is and my beyond beauty grandboys. Who cares about chronic pain??? The pain wavers in and out, the good things are solid and strong.
    Bless you Steve and family
    When we come to Winnipeg in early May for the VMC Reunion where might we see you perform?

  11. Lovely comment on history Steve. Perhaps Pax Christi will become our reality if we all learn to be free when we learn to “Live into God, Lean into life, with joy!”.

    Doug Krefting


    Is God only present
    in these ancient stones,
    in the tiny cracks of the past
    in which we stuff
    our scribbled prayers?

    Is God only present
    in our history?

    Is God not here, now,
    still bringing
    life and love
    into the world,
    through you and me?

    Are we not called
    to rise above all
    that has been?

    Live into God,
    lean into life,
    with joy!

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