One of the things I have noticed is how many of the Epistles in the New Testament begin with a very brief introduction from the author of that particular letter, followed immediately by an explicit blessing directed to the recipient of the Letter – and these blessings all have a great deal in common.
Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians is a good example. There we read –
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ
This opening becomes something of a motif in the Pauline epistles; the Second Letter to the Corinthians begin with precisely the same words of blessing, as do the Letters to the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians (though slightly contracted), 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy (with the addition of ‘mercy’), Titus and Philemon.
Similarly, Saint Peter opens his First Letter with something very similar – “may grace and peace be yours in abundance”. The same words open his Second Letter.
The Letter of Jude continues the theme – “may mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance”.
This is a very beautiful way in which to begin a letter to those we care for, and whose welfare we seek.
The blessings are simple, at least on the surface – and yet, they contain everything. Grace and peace.
Grace is the very action of God at work within us and around us; it is the work of the Holy Spirit, promised to us by Christ and now very active in all the corners of the early Church to which St Paul was writing with such encouragement. Imagine how all those Letters would have been received in each of those local churches, and the great care with which they would have been read and preserved.
Peace is the interior disposition which is generated by our co-operation with the divine grace; it is that “peace which the world cannot give”. It is the divine peace which prevails no matter what, regardless of what comes our way in life or at it’s end.
These two, grace and peace, are the gifts of the Lord. If we have these, then we have everything. We need nothing more.