The etymology of peace begins with Latin. It gives us pax or pacem (different forms of the same word), which forms were passed along to most Romance languages, including Spanish paz, Italian pace, and French pais. It’s the French pais that made its way across the Channel to inform the word pes in the mid-1100s in England. It was in the 1500s that the spelling changed, to reflect how the vowel had begun to be pronounced.

What did peace mean? Pretty much what it always has, all the way back to Latin: “freedom from civil disorder, internal calm within a nation.” Peace, in all its languages dating back to ancient times, meant primarily this exterior, physical peace.

Which is why it was revolutionary when Jesus began to talk about a different kind of peace–an internal peace. When we weren’t not-at-war with other people…but rather, when we were not-at-war with God.

This concept of Biblical peace or pax has been a huge part of the Church and its symbology since the earliest days. Ancient churches and monasteries had what we call a pax stone marking their entrance, which was a prayer for peace, and one of the most enduring symbols is the Chi Rho Pax that marked those stones. It’s literally the first two Greek letters of Christ (Chi and Rho) interlaced, and then adding in the pax to be a benediction of “Go in peace in the name of Christ.”

May the peace of Christ go with you this week, my friends! And as we enter the hustle and bustle of a busy season, I daresay we all need to pause and consider what that looks like. How can we embody a lack of strife? How can we be the bearers of peace, both in the external and internal senses of the word?

Word Nerds Unite!

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