Shalom

Shalom Snail is on a journey with all creation toward wholeness and completeness in God the Creator, the deep meaning of the Hebrew word shalom (שׁלום).

Usually translated “peace,” shalom is more than a greeting and farewell. Shalom is God encircling and shining the radiant light of his face upon us, filling us with his own wholeness of being.

The Aaronic blessing epitomizes shalom:

The Lord bless you and keep you:
The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you:
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26 (RSV)

The Hebrew word for “bless” (barak) has the root meaning “to kneel down.” It is related to the noun berek, which means “knee.” God bends down to our level to present a blessing (berakah),  another cognate often translated as “gift” or “present.” 

God the Father “keeps” and “protects” us (shamar), which comes from the primitive root “to hedge about (as with thorns).” The verb shamar is related to the noun shamir, which means “thorn.” Shepherds in Israel used to corral their sheep at night in an enclosure made of thorns to keep out predators. 

Temporary sheepfold made of thornbushes, CC BY-NC 4.0, David Padfield, FreeBibleimages.org

The Hebrew word or can be a verb (to give light; shine) or a noun (light). When God says, “Let there be light (or),” order is brought out of disorder (Genesis 1:3). Light is associated with order in the Torah. Light shining from God’s face is a verb in the Aaronic blessing, but the same idea is conveyed as a noun in verses like Psalm 89:15:

Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!
They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance.

Psalm 89:15 (NKJV; 89:16 in NABRE)

The gift of shalom is God’s wholeness, soundness, and tranquility poured into creation. It comes from the verb shalam (to be complete or sound), which is usually translated as “repay” or “make restitution” for what is stolen or damaged in legal contexts.

Shalom restores what is broken and transfigures it. The shalom of the resurrected Christ restores humanity to the Father and bathes the cosmos in the triple light of glory.

Icon of the Transfiguration

These words of blessing entrusted to Aaron and the priests of Levi had power to comfort and lift up the downcast. When the Word of God became flesh in Jesus Christ, the human face of God shone upon his brothers and sisters, the animals, plants, minerals, and particles—all of creation.

Shalom Snail celebrates the divine presence in the cosmos with Scripture, photography, poetry, and philosophical musings.