Peace is something we all want, even if it is amongst an adrenaline-filled pacy existence. As our lives are filled with appointments, visual stimulation and stress, we become aware of our essential need for calmness alongside our busyness. Is this a possibility?
In English, the word peace implies a rather passive picture of the absence of disturbance or hostilities. It conjures up pictures of a personality free from internal and external strife. However, the Hebrew word for peace is shalom and this word has a much fuller meaning. It rests heavily on the root slm which means to be complete or to be sound. It speaks of wholeness, of life, of health. It refers to right relationship between two parties or people. The word, shalom, implies prosperity, success, fulfillment and victory over our ‘enemies’. It refers to things that are quite disparate, like wellness of body and an absence of war. Encompassing so much meaning in the nature of the word, shalom is as complete a word for well-being as we could find.
In Jewish communities, shalom was (and still is) used in both greetings and farewells. It is meant to act as a blessing on the one to whom it is spoken: ‘May your life be filled with health, prosperity and victory’. And what a wonderful blessing that is!
Some Christian gatherings include a time when people pass the peace to each other. When I first came across this small ritual, I panicked. I had no idea what it meant; whether I had peace to pass, who I was suppose to pass the peace to if I did have peace to pass, how many people I could pass the peace to before I would risk being left with none? I jest a little. Passing the peace in a church simply involves shaking another person by the hand and saying ‘peace be with you’ and they reply ‘and also with you’. This greeting is also founded on the word shalom and affirms the Christian belief that Christ has established a pure shalom between Yahweh (god) and humans through His living, dying and rising experience. In believing and receiving Christ, each person is given friendship with Creator and an eternal shalom. This speaks of a well-being freely given based on grace and faith instead of good works or rule-keeping.
When shalom is used as a verb , it conveys both a static and a dynamic meaning; to be complete or whole or to live well. This implies that it is both a state of being (a gift given to us) and a state of doing (a gift received by us).
Now that I am totally overwhelmed by the beauty, generosity and love contained in the meaning of this word, I must sincerely pass shalom to each one of you:
And may we all have the courage and humility to receive it.