In his Sermon XXVI, St. Leo the Great tells us:
Where true peace is, there can be no lack of virtue. But what is it, dearly beloved, to have peace towards God, except to wish what He bids, and not to wish what He forbids?
This needs to be understood from the perspective of Ephesians 2:14, “Christ is our peace.” If our lives are truly in Christ, our lives will be filled with virtue and we will be doing God’s will. Christ “has broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14) that exists between God and His creation because of our sin. True peace is only found in Christ with communion of the Holy Spirit doing the Father’s will.
Scripture is quite clear on this:
There is no peace, says the Lord, for the wicked. — Isaiah 48:22
The wicked, however, are like the restless sea that cannot be still, whose waters throw up mud and dirt. ‘No peace’, says the Lord, ‘for the wicked.’ — Isaiah 57:20-21
No, the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear, but your guilty deeds have made a gulf between you and your God. Your sins have made Him hide His face from you so as not to hear you, since your hands are stained with blood and your fingers with guilt; your lips utter lies, your tongues murmur wickedness. — Isaiah 59:1-3
They do not know the way of peace, there is no fair judgement in their course, they have made their own crooked paths, and no one treading them knows any peace. — Isaiah 59:8
As He drew near and came in sight of the city He shed tears over it and said, ‘If you too had only recognized on this day the way to peace! But in fact it is hidden from your eyes! — Luke 19:41-42
I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous: I have conquered the world. — John 16:33
Thus, when we sing the words of the angels on Christmas morning:
Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth. Today Bethlehem receives him who is ever seated with the Father. Today Angels glorify in a manner fitting God the babe that is born. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will among men. — from the Orthros of Christmas
We are not speaking of something we create by way of a treaty, we are speaking of a person — Christ. St. Leo gives us a practical way of determining how our lives are in relationship with Christ: virtue is a natural outcome of peace because Christ is the source of all virtue and Christ is our peace. When we steer our lives away from Him, we will find nothing but wickedness. Sans Christ — our peace and the source of virtue — there can be neither virtue or peace.
It is the Father’s will that we all be at peace with Him — this is why He sent us His Son. He gave us the path to peace — the path to His Kingdom. Virtues are the signs that we are on the path heading in the right direction. Wickedness is a clear sign that we have strayed from that path. May we all seek Christ, who is our peace, and cry out with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will among men.” Amen