PSALM 131 A Humble Trust in God
O Lord, my heart is not proud,
Nor are my eyes haughty;
I busy not myself with great things,
Nor with things too sublime for me.
Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted
My soul like a weaned child,
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
So is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord,
Both now and forever.
This Advent I decided to spend more time reflecting on the Incarnation and the Holy Family. I think what propelled my spirit was not only the external world issues at out doorsteps, but like for every human person on earth, I am trying to be at peace amidst it all. Also, we have lost some of our energy due to the pandemic, due to some of our body’s physical ailments, or due to a tiredness from work. The world has changed, but an ancient practice which has been around for a long time can bring us comfort.
At times during Advent when I did not have the energy even to pray, I would just sit in silence in front of an Orthodox icon with a candle or small light. This was especially comforting before going to bed. The image was the “Madonna and Child” icon, which Psalm 131 alludes to. Eventually, within this silence I could come to a place of interior grace with the icon. Art generally can do this, bringing me to another place of recollection. Icons, with a candle lit in front of it magnifies this space between the distance of my view and the image. Listening in silence, letting whatever surfaced emotionally and spiritually from within, I would experience not only a silence, but a silence of presence and sometimes of grace enlightening a mystery of LOVE in the dance of light and darkness.
St. John’s gospel proclaims that “God is Love.” If God is Love, then we have nothing to fear, and we can rest in the embrace of a mother’s love holding our lives, being at peace there. Like a “weaned child on its mother’s lap,” interiorly, we can be in silence and experience this loving waiting for the incarnation of Christ’s spirit in our own spirit. The icon image above of the Holy Family reveals this nurturing love we all need in every stage of our lives.
There is nothing to fear. Yet fear can take hold at times. Yes, during unrelenting pain, economic hardship, depression, etc., we all experience it and it is hard to be at peace. However, we do know that it is the love of family and friends who hold us up. It is the love of work and inspiration that lets us move forward. It is the love for our interests and hobbies that gives us joy. However, how do I know the love of God within? I have experienced this love in my life, yet I know that many have not, or have only had a fleeting glimpse of it. I have experienced this spiritual love from God while at my most vulnerable, aware that this grace is not always there in times of darkness. This is a major spiritual question and I have often thought about it. How do we know that God is near, that the veil between this life and the next are fused into each other within this place we call Love from God?
All religions express that this mystery is always around us and that all we need is to be open to it. We teach that prayer is “Love” said for oneself and sent to another. I believe in that too. It is important to say a prayer giving thanks for the new day in the morning, and at the end of the day hoping for another day. Even when we do not feel it, it helps to simply speak the words. I have come to know that Love then is the act of loving in light and in darkness. This is not easy, but it is the intent in our hearts that is important, to be able to call up this peace, wherever we are or whatever we are doing. And if we find it in ourselves, we can also pass it on to others, like in saying a kind word to someone who may need it. My own mother once said to me, “The person next to you is as important as you are.” Oftentimes my father opened his door to any stranger he would encounter. And I know of so many people reaching out to share this peace and love with others. This is communal love which is inspired with our hearts.
When we are in fear, we do need to take a deep breath, to stand in front of a just and loving God and say to ourselves, “I am not perfect Lord, but I am doing my part or at least trying to do so. I only ask that you be near me.” And when we are at our most vulnerable, it is important to dig deep and sit like a weaned child…as vulnerable as the son of God on his mother’s lap being held in trust and love.
Scripture mentions the three divine virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love because there is a real mystery to them which is deeply seated in our beings. Faith is a knowing that we are not alone. Hope is the movement toward love. And Love, being the greatest of these, invites us to enter into her more deeply. It is what our hearts already yearn for. Love makes us whole. Love makes us do the things we do. Love is what we are passionate about. Love is what makes us uniquely who we are. “God is Love,” I am Love, and We are Love.
The moment of the Incarnation in the midst of a Holy Family surrounded in a space of mystery is a moment of precious and real peace. “O God, only you know our hearts yearning for your Love. Hold us in your arms like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, and direct us more deeply into your Love. And as we try to work toward a future Earth for our children, send forth your eternal LOVE that we may know you are near, O Emmanuel – God with us, our Prince of Peace.“
Sister Luce Marie Dionne, OSB, RA, NCARB is a licensed Architect, immersed in Scripture, the Rule of St. Benedict, Ecumenical and Interfaith dialogue, and Sustainability for the Planet.