June 2022

Chairete

A common greeting in Christ’s day was the Hebrew word “Shalom.” The single word “Peace” worked equally well for “Hello” and “Goodbye” and is even now preferable to the vacuous “Have a nice Day.”   Common greetings have a way of becoming devalued.  For example, Goodbye has the wonderful etymology, “God be with you;” but whoever thinks of that today.

St. John records in the 14th chapter of his Gospel some of the last words Jesus shared with his disciples.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.”  That is to say, “My ‘Shalom’ is not an empty greeting.”  The peace Jesus gives radiates from his heart to ours.  It is an act of creation bringing harmony and order to the chaos of our lives.  It empowers us to reach out and embrace our world.  It says, “Be well!  Do good work.”  More than that, it makes us well and it makes our work good.

Jesus also used another greeting that was common in the Greek speaking world.  In fact it is the word he used to greet the women who came to embalm his body early Easter morning.  Chairete is the word he used to greet the startled women who certainly did not expect to find him alive.  The word is rather awkward in it’s English translation.  It means “all hail, rejoice, or be glad.”  A good interpretation might be, “all is well.”  Given the context of the morning after the crucifixion these words are more than just a greeting.  They are a report.  After the most horrible day imaginable Jesus could say; “Rejoice, all is well.” 

Death strikes, but it cannot harm eternal beings.  For those of us who feel especially burdened with the cares of life, it is good for us to remember that we are eternal beings.  If we could resurrect this ancient greeting we could remind each other often, that trouble is finite and temporary; but God’s goodness and grace, like life itself, are eternal.  Chairete, is a simple report that has the power to brighten even our darkest days. Because it reminds us that “All is well,” even when we have trouble believing it.

WHK

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