Lord, let us now depart in peace,
who in thy name are gathered here.
Disclose the brightness of thy face,
and be forever near.
We don’t know who wrote these words. They are simple and, I think, quite beautiful. This is a hymn we sometimes sing at the end of a church service. I often play it as a postlude and find myself having my favourite church experience of hearing the congregation quietly hum along – in four part harmony, of course! The words permeate the music, whether sung aloud or not.
November seems to be the time of year we are asked to remember the sacrifices of those who fought in wars; those who died; those who still suffer in these awful conflicts; those who wish for peace. There are many hymns, anthems, songs and poems that reflect on these thoughts. Some filled with pride, some with sorrow. Many with longing for peace and the end to the horror of war. As I think about what peace means to me, I am struck that in a simplistic way, this small hymn encapsulates an ideal that I treasure. It doesn’t say we need to agree. It doesn’t really have much of an answer. It just says, when we leave each other, let us do it peacefully.
The definition of peace is to be free from disturbance. This applies to the absence of war as much as to the notion of quiet tranquillity. And it applies to our behaviour. To ask for peace means, in part, to provide a space free from disturbance to those we leave. What a challenge. Easy when, as in this hymn, we are gathered with a common focus. Not so easy when we are fighting for what we believe to be right; when we completely disagree; when we know with absolute certainty that the other side is wrong. Yet working for peace requires more than being right. Peace is hard to find and harder to give. But it is worth the effort. To me, it is the brightness found in the face of the Divine. Maybe it’s found in whatever reminds us that there is something greater, and that we are small yet impactful. That we are neither alone nor the centre of the universe. And that we hold the possibility of peace within our hands.
Dona Nobis Pacem