By Rev. Michael Keith
Pax Domini. What’s that now? Does that having something to do with pizza being delivered in 30 minutes or less?
No, it’s about one of the coolest moments during Divine Service. Pax Domini: the peace of the Lord.
The Divine Service often begins with Confession and Absolution. We then join in the Kyrie and the Gloria in Excelsis, hear the Word of God read and preached, confess the Creed, join in the prayer of the Church, and all of this points us and leads us to the Service of the Sacrament.
It is in the Service of the Sacrament that we find the Pax Domini. After Jesus has spoken His Words through the office of the pastor in the Words of institution “Take eat; this is my body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me. Drink of it all of you; this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” the pastor then takes one of the consecrated hosts and the chalice and holds them up before the congregation and says “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” The congregation responds with a faith-filled “Amen.” This is the Pax Domini. And it’s so cool!
On the evening of the day Jesus rose from the dead He appeared to His disciples in the locked room. The disciples were afraid they, too, might be arrested and put to death like Jesus. The disciples’ initial reaction at Jesus appearing in the locked room may very well have been fear and terror as they had all abandoned and betrayed Him in some way. Yet, into this sinful, chaotic, and fearful place the resurrected Jesus physically appeared to the disciples and said to them “Peace be with you.”
And so Jesus does this for you today. Into your fearful, chaotic, sinful life He is physically present with His Body and Blood in the Holy Sacrament just as He promised—and He speaks a word to you. He speaks peace to you: the Pax Domini. It is in this Holy Supper that you know you have peace. It is in this Sacrament that you know that God is at peace with you despite your sin and rebellion and betrayal. It is in the Body and Blood of Jesus given and shed for you that you are forgiven, renewed, and strengthened. You respond with “Amen.” This is not a greeting between the pastor and the people. This is a proclamation. In Jesus, in this Sacrament, in the Body and Blood of Jesus now held before you, the peace of the Lord is with you always. You respond in faith and trust at the Lord’s Word. “Amen.” Yes, I believe that! I believe that through the Body and Blood of Jesus I have peace with God because of the forgiveness of sin. You sing the Agnus Dei—the Lamb of God—as you recognize that it is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world who is present for you in the bread and the wine. You then come forward to the altar to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. You are strengthened and preserved in body and soul to life everlasting. In the peace of Christ, you depart in peace.
That’s why the Pax Domini is so cool. It proclaims the profound truth that in the Sacrament of Holy Communion Jesus is physically among His people to speak a Word of peace. A Word of forgiveness. A Word of hope. A Word of life. The peace of the Lord is with you always. Amen.
Rev. Michael Keith serves as pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church and SML Christian Academy in Stony Plain, AB Canada.