It is a simple psalm – the shortest in the Hebrew Scriptures, only three verses, easy to miss. It is a little announcement, a tweet, a facebook status post:
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and for evermore. Psalm 131
The psalmist does not offer his knowledge, answers, opinions, strategies, outrage, or some new technological advance. He does not blast his enemies and ask for God’s vengeance. He does not recite a litany of his sorrows, nor does he plead for mercy. He does not even offer God praise or thanksgiving. He simply posts a calm and quiet soul and out of his serenity emerges a message to his friends, Israel: hope in God.
Here is no flashy super hero, no glamorous celebrity, no clever talking head striding up to the microphone to silence opponents with verbal repartee and inflammatory speech. Instead we find a balm for all wounds and a cool hand to smooth out the furrows in the forehead of a distracted, feverish world.
Peace is polite and unassuming. It does not force its way on others or announce itself with strobe lights and blaring headlines. With the irony, sarcasm, and impatience so endemic in our world, we may think, “Big deal. So the guy’s calmed himself down. Whatever.”
It is easy to miss the importance of this. I think some of you know how much work it takes to create and maintain inner peace. You have an idea of the courage and selflessness a calm and quiet heart requires. Such peace is won by the bloody confrontation with inner truth and the battle with all in oneself that resists or thwarts reconciliation.
A calm heart is the heart of a weaned child, no longing gasping and grasping for nourishment from its mother. The psalmist has mastered his appetites and addictions. He has grown up and can return to the source of life free of the demanding temptations of ambition, restlessness, and narcissism.
The psalmist does a startling thing here. Notice that he is not blaming, or damning, or threatening to sue whatever has upset him or caused him to despair. We do not know what has set him about calming his heart. What we do know is that he has assumed responsibility for his inner peace and his outward response to the world. He does not hold others accountable for his difficulty. He is reconciled with his own experience. His soul is at rest and his desire for his friends is the hope he has found in God.
A calm and quiet soul is a great lake of strength and serenity, a pool of stillness reflecting reality where many come to drink. Yet the cacophony of the postmodern world has little appreciation for such souls. These are hidden folk with no desire for their five minutes of fame. They remain rooted and grounded in the soil of love, flexible, bending with the winds of change, and standing tall in tough times. I have known a few. I want to be someone like that more than anything. Don’t you?
For the past couple of weeks I’ve had the “eye twitch.” You know, that annoying hysterical jerk of the eyelid? I’ve been so tired. I have not been respecting my limits. My sites have been set too high. I have been occupying myself with things too great for me.
It is a simple psalm. It is really a lullaby. Sing it to yourself this week.
If you alone find inner peace, thousands around you will be saved.
– St. Seraphim of Sarov
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