See, your king shall come to you… He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. (Zec 9:9-10)
It seems unlikely that we will be witness to any more Christian victories such as at Covadonga (722 AD), Tours (732), Lepanto (1571) and Vienna (1683). Christendom, or the concerted and united effort to maintain Catholic practice and civil concord on the earth, has past. Not only this but Western civilization has suffered a self-inflicted de-Christianization and a deconstruction of classical wisdom which causes its enemies to celebrate and see blood. Even today, with fiery impatience and vigor many of the so-called “peacemakers” hasten to topple all vestiges of the Christian acumen from the foundations of human culture.
So how does one truly make peace? Peace will always be that tranquility gained through the establishment of a right and just order. Heavenly peace, an altogether different and more perfect affair, will come about only when Our Lord Jesus comes and rids the world of all instruments of unjust war. Yet even the removal of all weapons could never bring about peace if the heart of man was to still seek power and prosperity through violence and deceit. If you take away all the devices of war and leave alive the malice of man, there could be no peace.
Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. He will bring order and peace finally with the separation of the sheep from the goats (Mt 25:31-32); from those who advocate for authentic peace and those who advocate for cruel upheaval; for it is faith and reason immersed in the love of Christ that brings peace and all those who attempt peace with that other sort of love, earthly and emotional, without faith and reason, will only ever achieve pandemonium.
We place on our bulletin cover for this 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time a masterful work attributed to the Dutch artist Rembrandt entitled The Polish Rider (1655). We say “attributed” because no one knows for sure, although it is most likely the work of Rembrandt’s brush and not that of one of his students as some have surmised.
This is an intriguing work for reasons more than the mystery of its origin. It is classical and Christian in temperament for depicting one so ready to do battle for the truth yet so restrained by the prospect of peace. The expression on the face of this rider is timeless for its vigilance and intrepidness. His posture on his horse accompanied by his forward perception indicate that he is riding side to side as a guardian and not forward as an aggressor. Even the way he holds his battle pick with his right hand settled on his hip indicates that he is willing to await an answer from his enemy. His horse is as stalwart as he, undisturbed by any threat, displaying symbolically the interior peace of his master. This young nobleman bears pick, bow, knife and sword and rides not humbly upon the colt of the Messiah (Mt 21:6-9) yet he would as soon lay down his arms for Christ since he knows well the words of the psalmist: “[God] takes no delight in the strength of horses, no pleasure in the runners stride. Rather the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his mercy” (Ps 147:10-11).
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services