READ: Psalm 131
“Lord, my heart is not proud. I do not look down on others. I do not do great things and I can’t do miracles. But I am calm and quiet, like a child with its mother. I am at peace, like a child with its mother. My people, put your hope in the Lord, now and forever.” – Psalm 131
Near the entrance of the all-male community of Greyfriars’ Abbey is a statue that one might not expect to find there. You would think you would find statues of Saint Benedict or Jesus or a humble monk doing holy work. Those statues can be found within the cloister of the Abbey, but at the entrance, in the most defining and most prominent place … stands a lovely, even beautiful statue of Mary holding the Christ Child, her infant son, tenderly in her lap. I find this particular Madonna to be remarkably human and tender, a vision of comfort that could be seen as both human and divine. Yet, I have wondered why? Why was this statue placed at such a prominent place at Greyfriars’? Inside live men folk, Brothers and Priests, most of whom are childless (I being one of the exceptions!) and a good share of them on the grey and grizzly end of the spectrum. These men might possibly be lovely and graceful in Spirit, but I do not find them very lovely and graceful in appearance. Yet, there she sits … at the gate of our coming and going … a mother and a child in a most, feminine comforting moment.
Now after a year of my novitiate, I am beginning to sense that subconsciously, these men sometimes yearn, maybe often yearn, to become once more that child in his mother’s arms, if only for a second or two. I do not why this should surprise me … for my years of pastoral ministry has confirmed the truth that we all need to be comforted from time to time.
I find this brief Psalm, Psalm 131, to be such a poignant and personal confession by the Psalmist, even more so if the Psalmist were indeed the mighty King David, a man who had fought and survived so many wars and so many political conflicts. It is as if in an unguarded moment, we catch a brief glimpse of the boy still lingering in the soul of an old man. Almost as if in a very private and personal confession, the Psalmist remembers the comfort of being in mother’s arms … and how that same comfort comes to him when he places himself in the embrace of God. I find it so beautiful, this Psalm 131, and I find it so tenderly human and revealingly divine. Yes, …sometimes the Lord has the feel of a mother’s comforting arms.
Our lives are filled to the brim with adult responsibilities and grown-up challenges. There is much work to be done, long journeys to be made and heavy responsibilities to fulfill … yet, midst all that adult-ness, there are moments when the child within us still needs mother’s comfort. It is our nature – maybe, part of our frailty – but I think more likely a part of our spirituality … this humility that recognizes our need for receiving tender comfort and with it, our finding of gentle peace.
I have recently begun carefully observing the faces of the Brothers when they pass by that statue of Mary and Child. And I find that they ALL take time to give that mother and child a thoughtful look. Each and every one of them! … And I sense that they do so … because they too … sometimes long … for loving comfort.
Loved Ones, take care of the children, especially the children within old men and weary women.
Brother Anthony of the Cross