Last night I asked God what He wanted me to write on next. Asking God should be my first inclination but this time it wasn’t, and I tried to think of something myself. No wonder I couldn’t come up with anything!
This morning I woke up before prayers and decided to take a brief walk in the driveway before morning prayer.
God gave me my answer.
As I started walking towards the end of the monastery driveway, I noticed two mourning doves seated on a bench that looks directly towards a cross and an icon of Christ. It stopped me dead in my tracks. There was such beauty in the scene. I know that the doves weren’t praising the Lord in the same way that we humans do. Psalm 148 does invite all birds to praise the Lord, and they do in their way.
The scene touched me. Admittedly I know very little about mourning doves. This was going to be a problem if I was going to write a post on them, so research was necessary. After doing a bit of research, I’m even more edified by the teaching of the doves this morning.
Mourning doves are monogamous. Once I read this, my mind jumped to the title of a Fulton Sheen book ‘Three to Get Married.’ Now I’ve never read the book, but I’m fairly confident that the third in this situation is God. That was what I saw! I saw two doves who appeared to be fixated on the icon of Christ.
It didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know, but it was a reminder.
A good marriage involves husband and wife being united in Christ. Christ should be the center of the marriage.
What about for those who aren’t married?
Friendship works in the same way. A deep and lasting friendship should also center around God. Those who I am closest friends with are those who have God as the center of their life. This allows us to have to be truly open to each other. We may still connect and talk about things such as music and sports, and this strengthens our bond. But the glue that holds our bond together is stronger than music or sports. It’s God. (Maybe in another post I’ll rant about how our society looks with suspicion on men who have relationships like this and thus discourages men from having authentic friendships with other men.)
All good relationships involve God, whether implicitly or explicitly. Living in a monastic community, the doves served as a reminder to keep God at the center of every interaction with my brothers.
More than writing I think God just wanted to remind me of this.
I also found out that the mourning dove is the official state symbol of peace in Wisconsin. Having Christ as the center of your life and your relationships will bring peace to your life. It may be an uncomfortable peace that is present in suffering, but even in suffering, Christ can bring peace. The martyrs are wonderful examples of this.
But what about Matthew 10:34-39?
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.”
These verses don’t sound like Christ is going to bring peace to relationships.
If a man is against his father and a daughter against her mother, what kind of peace is that? This is what happens when the relationship is not centered on Christ; when anyone is more important than God for that matter.
Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid (known in the Eastern Churches as one of the greatest biblical scholars and in the Western Church as an expert via the sheer number of times St. Thomas Aquinas quotes him in his Catena Aurea) explains what is meant by the sword in this scripture passage.
“The sword, then, is the word of faith which severs our bond to our families and relatives when they hinder our piety towards God.”
If, however, both parties in a relationship put Christ first, then they will be able to find peace in their relationship because of their unity in Christ.
Let’s pray that we can all start putting Christ first and foremost in every aspect of our lives. Let’s pray that this transforms our relationships with others and that instead of being against those we love we will be able to care for them and that we will be able to help each other bear our crosses.
Pray for me.
I’ll pray for you.