Make Every Decision Based on These Two Standards
Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name!
For that which is good and beneficial for our souls, and for peace for the world, let us ask the Lord.
This petition is one of the most useful and practical in the entire Divine Liturgy. Imagine if you made every decision according to this petition:
Is what I am going to do good for my soul?
Is what I am going to do going to promote peace in the world?
If the answer to either question is “no,” then you are not making a good decision. For instance, as soon as the Divine Liturgy ends in most parishes, there is a fellowship hour in the parish hall. Undoubtedly, before you leave the church premises, there is going to be an opportunity to gossip. Gossip is not good for your soul and it certainly does not promote peace in the world, in the church community, in the workplace, within the family or anywhere else. And yet gossip is probably the temptation we fall prey to the most, many times almost immediately after the Divine Liturgy, immediately after hearing this petition.
If you made every decision during the week according to these two petitions, you would have not only a foretaste of heaven, but you might feel what it is like to be a saint. I can’t recall ever going an entire week without failing at this petition. Many of us can’t go a day without doing something that goes against this petition. That’s why this petition is so important. That’s why it is offered at every Divine Liturgy and in most other services as well.
When people complain that the Divine Liturgy is “the same and the same” every week, I often direct them to this petition. I tell people that if you can follow THIS petition for an entire week, then you can skip the Divine Liturgy the next Sunday. Truth is, NONE of us can do this. We come to Divine Liturgy for many reasons, including, for a reminder of what we are supposed to do in our lives. When I hear this petition at each Divine Liturgy, I am reminded that I have to use this petition as my barometer in decision-making.
When you wonder if you are making a good decision, remember this petition—Is it good for my soul? Does it promote peace in the world, or my small corner of it? If the answer to either question is no, make a different decision.
Please Respond to This One
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
Peace be with all. And with your spirit.
We are about to become one with the Lord in the receiving of Holy Communion. This is one the most important moments of the Divine Liturgy, as it is (or should be) the entire purpose for which we came.
There are two other instances when the priest says to the people “Peace be with all.” The other two times are before the Gospel and before the reciting of the Creed. That is because we want to come to these events in peace. We want to be at peace to hear the Word of the Lord through the Gospel. We want to be at peace as we confess our faith. And now we want to be at peace as we receive Holy Communion.
As with all petitions and prayers of the service, there is a response. And as with all the responses, the entire congregation is supposed to respond, not just the choir or the chanter. Never is this more appropriate than with this directive. The Lord, through the hand of the priest, offers us peace. The priest blesses the people with the prayer that they have peace. It’s like when someone wishes you a “good morning,” they mean that they wish for you “to have a good morning.” And you should wish them the same in return, that you wish for them to have the same good morning they are wishing for you to have.
When the priest says “peace be with all,” he is praying to God and wishing on you that you will have peace, that you will have absence of conflict, that you will have the peace of God, the kind of peace that is beyond our understanding, (Philippians 4:7), this is what he is offering to you. And this demands two responses. It first demands an immediate response from the people to the priest - “And with your spirit” - which means that the people are wishing for the priest to have peace as well. The second response is that in our lives, we are to spread peace to all, so that “all spirits” are in peace. This exchange of “peace” should be implied in all of our interactions—we should be people who encourage peace, and in response, people should bring peace to us as well.
Going back to “peace be with all,” and the response, “and with your spirit,” the Divine Liturgy is “work” for all the people. It is not only the priest and choir that are working. Nor is the Divine Liturgy a production where the priest, choir and chanter are the cast, and the congregation is the audience. I said once in church, in a sermon about congregational singing, the priest doesn’t say “peace be with the choir since they are the only ones who will answer.” He says “peace be with ALL” and the response should be, to your priest, “and with YOUR spirit.” The priest includes all but himself in this Gift. He doesn’t say “peace be with me,” or “peace be with you and me,” but with humility and love wishes “peace be with all.” With the same humility and love, let us respond back, “And with YOUR spirit,” so that the spirit of the priest or bishop who is offering the blessing receives also the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.