A common comparison, even if it is often not deeply considered, is the one between silence and peace. Peace is as much related to silence as are torment, anxiety, fear, or the sense of solitude, freedom, or constriction. It depends on one's state of mind, on one's character, on any complexes one has, on the situation.
Certainly silence is necessary in centering oneself, in meditation, in prayer, and during delicate work, and being further away from noise and distraction enhances concentration.
There is, however, no certainty of peace in the mere absence of noise and confusion, unless there enters into the act of concentration a particular spirit, as it does in worship -- any form of worship.
Among the forms of worship that I have experienced - Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, and some meditations of a Hindu or Buddhist type — the one which most often gives the fruits of spiritual peace is the form of silent worship practised by the Quakers. And there is no Quaker worthy of that name who does not seek to translate the sum of peace enjoyed in worship into activity to bring real peace to his neighbour.
If, because of war, inner conflict, injustice, misery, repression, individual and social isolation (madness, imprisonment, illness...) our neighbour has no peace, it is a prime duty of whoever enjoys the privilege of peace to act in such a way that it bears fruit for whoever lacks peace.
The divine gift of peace which passes all understanding must not become in our hands a vehicle for egotism, for retreat from the world, for indifference to the various forms of non-peace suffered by our neighbour.
It would suffice to remember all those moments — and surely they must be innumerable — in which all of us have lacked peace and eagerly accepted the offer of peace from a friendly hand. If we find any kind of peace in worship or in any blessed form of spiritual uplift, let us not hoard it for ourselves. That would be to betray its essence.
Pisa, 1 X 1986
Please send any suggestions for alternative translations of any of these meditations to Simon Grant.