St Columba & the Breast of Peace
John’s Gospel and all John’s writ-I ings are the closest of all’, said1^ Columba. ‘There is no wall between. All is brightness there – clarity beyond belief- and now at last, no longer any feeling of separation from the Kingdom he saw coming down out of Heaven! Now at last, within the sight of Eternity, I have known what it is to rest upon the breast of Peace.’
With these words, Columba made his way to the Oratory and blessed his little community before the ‘altar where the mysteries would be offered’ and then collapsed and died into the hands of Peace.
The picture that Columba brings to mind is that of the Last Supper, when John the beloved disciple lay back on the breast of Jesus. What a privileged position to be in. Resting on Jesus is a paradigm of the Gospel promise of peace and security in the hands of God.
The Last Supper
That may well have been a haven of peace for the beloved disciple, but that breast upon which he lay, and the heart that beat within it, was far from peaceful. At the Last Supper, the enormity of the task of redemption was impinging on the mind of Jesus. He knew that this was his last meal with the disciples before he had to face his passion and death. The very words of blessing he used over the traditional common loaf and shared cup directed the attention of all in that Upper Room to the theme of sacrifice and death.
And yet, surrounded as may be by so much foreseeable suffering and distress, that breast was a cushion of peace for John. Jesus could also see beyond the trials of time to the promise of Eternity even then breaking through. The bread may be his Body broken, but it was also a pledge that sins would be forgiven; the wine was a symbol of Blood outpoured in death, but also a sacrificial death by which his followers would call his future triumphant presence into their turbulent present.
In sight of Eternity
Surely Columba encourages us to see in the celebration of the Eucharist a precious chance to do what St John did at the Last Supper – to rest upon the breast of Peace. It was this Sacrament that sustained the Church and made her grow. This one link with the past is our assurance for the future life of our Christian faith and life here, and our link with all the blessings that await us beyond time. Most of all, the Blessed Sacrament gives us the opportunity to rest together on Our Lord’s breast of Peace – to see the Eternity of God’s promise in the circumstances of our time. Here we present our fears and reservations for the future in order that through the presence of Christ in his Holy Sacrament we might experience the hope that is gift from heaven.
So we rest awhile on the breast of Peace, for here we are, in Columba’s words, in sight of Eternity. Our fears for the future evaporate in the overwhelming love of God, and we pledge ourselves to carry that love with us into all aspects of our lives, as apostles in our own generation testifying to the limitlessness of God’s grace.