Unity and Peace

Is it possible to obtain an everlasting peace through purely human efforts and means? Will men, in and of themselves, ever possess the ability to provide all races and cultures with perpetual peace and unity? Is eternal peace and the fullness of unity attainable where sin exists?

In beginning to ponder these questions, one must examine the origins of sin — the original sin of Adam and Eve. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of original sin in paragraphs 397–400: “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of (cf. Gen 3:1-11; Rom 5:19). All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness. In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully ‘divinized’ by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to ‘be like God,’ but ‘without God, before God, and not in accordance with God’ (cf. St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua: PG 91, 1156C; cf. Gen 3:5).

Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness (cf. Rom 3:23). They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image — that of a God jealous of his prerogatives (cf. Gen 3:5-10). The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination (cf. Gen 3:7–16). Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man (cf. Gen 3:17,19). Because of man, creation is now subject ‘to its bondage to decay’ (cf. Rom 8:21). Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will ‘return to the ground’ (cf. Gen 3:19; cf. 2:17), for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history (cf. Rom 5:12).”1

It is through the wiles and temptation of the devil that Adam and Eve allow themselves to be convinced to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, the tree located in the middle of the garden, of whose fruit the Lord God had forbidden them to eat. And it is in the act of freely eating fruit from this tree that they commit original sin, a sin rooted in self-centeredness, and the desire to possess a state greater than the one God had generously bestowed upon them. Specifically, the aspiration to “‘be like God,’ but ‘without God,’” bringing about the realization of the fall, the loss of the “original” “state of holiness” which destined man “to be fully ‘divinized’ by God in glory.” As a result, man’s union with God and others is shattered, as is harmony with creation, which “has become alien and hostile to man.”

Through original sin, guilt, shame, fear, strife, and death have become a part of the existence of mankind and accord with God has been disrupted. Nevertheless, we must recognize that God has not forsaken us, that, He Who created all things is — in and of Himself — a Trinity. A union of Three Distinct Persons, while remaining always One in being (Nature, Substance, and Essence): “The confession of God’s oneness, which has its roots in the divine revelation of the Old Covenant, is inseparable from the profession of God’s existence and is equally fundamental. God is unique; there is only one God: ‘The Christian faith confesses that God is one in nature, substance, and essence.’”2The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the ‘consubstantial Trinity’ (cf. Council of Constantinople II (553): DS 421). The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: ‘The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e., by nature one God’ (cf. Council of Toledo XI (675): DS 530:26). In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215): ‘Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature’” (cf. Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 804).3

Therefore, if Jesus is God, the Word, and Second Person of the Holy Trinity, then He is necessarily One in Nature, Substance, and Essence with God the Father and the Holy Spirit — He is Unity Itself. Christ is the Origin and Source of All Unity and the Fullness of Peace:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross [through him], whether those on earth or those in heaven. And you who once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through his death, to present you holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before him, provided that you persevere in the faith, firmly grounded, stable, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, am a minister.”4

If all things were created through Christ, does it not make sense that all things are provided for and held in being by Him? And if all things are reconciled in Christ and unto Christ through “the Blood of His Cross,” does this not make Him the Guarantor of Unity — and peace, the fruit of this unity?

If mankind is to be restored by God to its “original unity,” it must recall that Christ founded His Church to carry out His mission to all people and nations, to the ends of the earth: “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.”5

Simon Peter, who was given the gift of recognizing the True Identity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” to him, Christ bestowed the care of His Church: “The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the ‘rock’ of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock (cf. Mt 16:18-19; Jn 21:15-17). ‘The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head’ (cf. LG 22 § 2). This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope. The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful’ (cf. LG 23). ‘For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered’” (cf. LG 22; cf. CD 2,9).6

In order that Simon Peter, the rest of the apostles, and their successors are provided for in carrying out His mission, Christ made them a promise to send an Advocate: “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”7

Here, we must acknowledge, the Foundation of the Church and the Source of True Unity is Divine. Those who are ordained in the line of Melchizedek, through apostolic succession, are to cooperate with God, and be defenders of this unity, but, the Source is and will always be Divine, as St. Cyprian of Carthage affirms:

“Take away a ray of light from the body of the sun, its unity does not take on any division of its light; break a branch from a tree, the branch thus broken will not be able to bud; cut off a stream from its source, the stream thus cut off dries up. Thus too the Church bathed in the light of the Lord projects its rays over the whole world, yet there is one light which is diffused everywhere, and the unity of the body is not separated. She extends her branches over the whole earth in fruitful abundance; she extends her richly flowing streams far and wide; yet her head is one, and her source is one, and she is the one mother copious in the results of her fruitfulness. By her womb we are born; by her milk we are nourished; by her Spirit we are animated.”8

The Church is the Spotless Bride of Christ, and therefore will never be abandoned by Him: “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” And it is clear that Jesus appointed Simon Peter the head of His Church, that, through His loving providence, the Sacraments would be provided for His people and unity be preserved; as St. Cyprian says:

“If anyone considers and examines these things, there is no need of a lengthy discussion and arguments. Proof for faith is easy in a brief statement of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter: ‘I say to thee,’ He says, ‘thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven’ (cf. Mt 16:18-19). Upon him, being one, He builds His Church, and although after His resurrection He bestows equal power upon all the Apostles, and says: ‘As the Father has sent me, I also send you. Receive ye the Holy Spirit: if you forgive the sins of anyone, they will be forgiven him; if you retain the sins of anyone, they will be retained’ (cf. Jn 20:21-23), yet that He might display unity, He established by His authority the origin of the same unity as beginning from one.

“Surely the rest of the Apostles also were that which Peter was, endowed with an equal partnership of office and of power, but the beginning proceeds from unity, that the Church of Christ may be shown to be one. This one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Canticle of Canticles [cf. (CC or SS) 6:8] designates in the person of the Lord and says: ‘One is my dove, my perfect one is but one, she is the only one of her mother, the chosen one of her that bore her.’ Does he who does not hold this unity think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against the Church and resists her think that he is in the Church, when too the blessed Apostle Paul teaches this same thing and sets forth the sacrament of unity saying: ‘One body and one Spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God’” (cf. Ep 4:4–6)?9

We have learned about and experienced for ourselves the realities of original sin, the shattered unity between mankind and God, as well as the lust and domination which undoubtably plagues relations between men and women themselves. And, we must realize, this is rooted in the abuse of God’s gift of free will, the choice Adam and Eve made to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

Hence, does it not seem clear that all men, even those who have been ordained, can choose sin? They can misuse the gift of free will and affect disunity by placing a disordered priority upon one’s own will (or personal agenda) over and above the Will of God. Yet, in choosing sin, one must not believe that he has eclipsed all that remains in and of itself true, good, and beautiful, or that, through his sin, he has somehow blotted out what God intends for all mankind and has Willed from all Eternity — that all be made one through His Bride the Church.

Therefore, all who would follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and His Church should prayerfully consider these questions of St. Cyprian: “Does he who does not hold this unity think that he holds the faith?” “Does he who strives against the Church and resists her think that he is in the Church . . . ?”

Placing oneself outside of the Faith through choosing sin, or a lesser good, separates us from God and stifles the procession of the Holy Spirit. This does nothing to advance unity; rather, it only furthers disunity. And yet, however sinful and damaging this is toward unity and peace, it will never alter the Truth, it will never dim the Light of Christ as it shows forth clearly through His Church:

“The spouse of Christ cannot be defiled; she is uncorrupted and chaste. She knows one home, with chaste modesty she guards the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God; she assigns the children whom she has created to the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined with an adulteress is separated from the promises of the Church, nor will he who has abandoned the Church arrive at the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He cannot have God as a father who does not have the Church as a mother. If whoever was outside the ark of Noe was able to escape, he too who is outside the Church escapes. The Lord warns, saying: ‘He who is not with me is against me, and who does not gather with me, scatters’ (cf. Mt 12:30). He who breaks the peace and concord of Christ acts against Christ; he who gathers somewhere outside the Church scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says: ‘I and the Father are one” (cf. Jn 10:30). And again of the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit it is written: ‘And these three are one’ (cf. 1 Jn 5:7). Does anyone believe that this unity which comes from divine strength, which is closely connected with the divine sacraments, can be broken asunder in the Church and be separated by the divisions of colliding wills? He who does not hold this unity, does not hold the law of God, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation.”10

If one makes the choice to abandon the eternal pursuit of unity, one has not “escaped”; instead, this person erroneously believes this accord to be non-essential. And, in making this choice, he has effectively chosen to abandon God “the Source of all Unity,” Who intends that all be made One through His Bride the Church. If this is so, how can mankind hope to possess the peace that only God can give?

In this endeavor, we must strive always to contemplate these words of Christ: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”11 If God is the Source of All Unity and without Him no True Unity can be found, how could we ever expect to find a lasting peace, except in Him Who is outside of all time and space?

St. Augustine speaks of the Peace of God within his writing, The Enchiridion to Laurentius, or, Concerning Faith, Hope, and Charity:

63. That peace surpasses, as it is written, all understanding (cf. Ph 4:7), nor can it be known by us, except when we shall have come to those things. For how are heavenly things made at peace, except with us, that is by agreeing with us? For there peace always is both to the whole of the reasonable creatures among themselves, and with their Creator. Which peace surpasses, as has been said, all understanding, but surely ours, not that of those who always see the face of the Father. But we, however great human understanding there may be in us, know in part, and see now as by a glass in a riddle; but when we shall be equal to the angels of God, then we shall see, after the same manner as they, face to face, and shall have as great peace towards them as they towards us, because we shall love them as much as we are loved by them. And so their peace will be known to us, because ours, too, will be such and so great, nor will it then surpass our understanding; but the peace of God which is there towards them, will surpass without doubt both their and our understanding. Forasmuch as every reasonable creature is blessed of Him so far as it is blessed, not He of it. Whence what is written is better taken according to this sense, The peace of God which excels all understanding, so that in that he said all, not even the understanding of the holy angels may be excepted, but of God alone, for His peace passes not His understanding.12

Does this mean that men are incapable of comprehending that we require the Eternal Peace of God? That mankind will never truly understand the fullness of God’s peace until we enter into His Presence in Heaven? As St. Augustine asserts, “we are able to know in part,” that is, we are able to recognize that the Peace of God is Greater than any earthly peace, and that He Who was sent to save us from our sins is calling us always toward His Eternal Peace.

St. Augustine continues this thought in the following paragraph:

64. But the holy angels are at one with us even now, when our sins are forgiven. Wherefore, after the mention of the holy Church in the order of confession is placed the remission of sins. For through this the Church which is in earth stands, through this that which was lost and has been found is not lost. Inasmuch as the gift of baptism being excepted, which was given against original sin, that what was contracted by generation may be done away by regeneration; and yet it takes away actual sins also, whatsoever it has found committed in heart, mouth, or deed; excepting, then, this great remission, whence the renewal of man begins, in which all guilt both inborn and added is loosed; the rest of life itself of an age now using reason, with whatever fruitfulness of righteousness it may now be remarkable, is not spent without remission of sins.13

If unity and peace have been disrupted through the original sin of Adam and Eve, does it not make sense that the Church was founded by Christ, and the Sacraments provided, that unity and peace be restored? Most specifically, through the Sacrament of Baptism, which removes all stain of original sin through Sanctifying Grace: “[T]he gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.”14 And, by way of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, through which men are forgiven their sins following the Sacrament of Baptism: “‘The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship’” (Roman Catechism, II,V,18).15

In the Sacraments “the renewal of man begins,” through grace, man is transformed toward purity. And, where there is purity – there is unity and peace: “The Church is one because of her source: ‘the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit’ (cf. UR 2 § 5). The Church is one because of her founder: for ‘the Word made flesh, the prince of peace, reconciled all men to God by the cross, . . . restoring the unity of all in one people and one body’ (cf. GS 78 § 3). The Church is one because of hersoul’: ‘It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church’s unity’” (cf. UR 2 § 2).16

  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church: Revised in Accordance with the Official Latin Text Promulgated by Pope John Paul II, 2nd ed. (Vatican City; Washington D.C.: Libreria Editrice Vaticana; United States Catholic Conference, 1997), §397–400. (Hereafter cited as CCC.)
  2. CCC §200, as quoting the Roman Catechism I, 2, 2.
  3. CCC §253.
  4. Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Church, Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, (United States Catholic Conference, and Catholic Book Publishing Co. 2011), Col. 1:15-23. (Hereafter cited as NAB.)
  5. NAB, Mt. 16:15-20.
  6. CCC §881–882.
  7. NAB, Jn. 16:7–15.
  8. Cyprian, Treatises: The Fathers of the Church, Volume 36, trans. and ed. Roy J. Deferrari (New York: Fathers of the Church, 1958), 100.
  9. Cyprian, Treatises, 98–99.
  10. Cyprian, Treatises, 100-101.
  11. NAB, Jn. 14:27.
  12. Augustine, On Instructing the Unlearned, Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen, On the Advantage of Believing, The Enchiridion to Laurentius, or, Concerning Faith, Hope, and Charity, ed. H. De Romestin (Parker & Co: Oxford & London, 1885), 203-204.
  13. Augustine, On instructing the unlearned, 204.
  14. CCC, §1999.
  15. CCC §1468.
  16. CCC §813.
Rev. Kenneth M. Dos Santos, MIC About Rev. Kenneth M. Dos Santos, MIC

Rev. Kenneth M. Dos Santos, MIC, is a member of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and was ordained a priest in 2010. He is currently serving as Provincial Secretary for the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province, located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He holds a BA in Philosophy from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and an MDiv from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC.

Comments

  1. Avatar Tom McGuire says:

    Kenneth,
    You have done a masterful job of pulling together the texts in this article to establish the Church founded by Christ as the source of Unity and Peace. I am sure you agree unity and peace is ultimately not yet but to come. I am struck by how often a kind of self-righteousness and pride replaces humility and love in those who teach and preach in the Church. I have met so many people from other traditions who live the peace and unity that is of God. They have found the law of God in their heart and live by it. Some of us who have the advantage of revelation seem so full of fear and anxiety that we are not a sign of the unity and peace that the world cannot give.

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