Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences
“My heart is not proud
Aug 10, 2005
Dear Brothers and
1. We have listened to only a few words, about 30 in the original
Hebrew, of Psalm 131. Yet they are intense words that convey a
topic dear to all religious literature: spiritual childhood. Our
thoughts turn spontaneously to St Thérèse of Lisieux, to her "Little
Way", her "remaining little" in order to be held in Jesus' arms (cf.
Story of a Soul, Manuscript "C", p. 208).
Indeed, the clear-cut image of a mother and child in the middle of
the Psalm is a sign of God's tender and maternal love, as the
Prophet Hosea formerly expressed it: "When Israel was a child I
loved him.... I drew [him] with human cords, with bands of love; I
fostered [him] like one who raises an infant to his cheeks... I
stooped to feed my child" (Hos 11: 1, 4).
2. The Psalm begins by describing an attitude quite the opposite of
infancy, which, well aware of its own frailty, trusts in the help of
others. In the foreground of this Psalm, instead, are pride of
heart, haughty eyes and "great things" that are "too sublime for me"
(cf. Ps 131: 1). This is an illustration of the proud person
who is described by Hebrew words that suggest "pride" and
"haughtiness", the arrogant attitude of those who look down on
others, considering them inferior.
The great temptation of the proud, who want to be like God, the
arbiter of good and evil (cf. Gn 3: 5), is decisively rejected by
the person of prayer who chooses humble and spontaneous trust in the
3. Thus, we move on to the unforgettable image of the mother and
child. The original Hebrew text does not speak of a newborn child
but of a child that has been "weaned" (Ps 131: 2). Now, it is
known that in the ancient Near East a special celebration marked the
official weaning of a child, usually at about the age of 3 (cf. Gn
21: 8; I Sam 1: 20-23; II Mc 7: 27).
The child to which the Psalmist refers is now bound to the mother by
a most personal and intimate bond, hence, not merely by physical
contact and the need for food. It is a more conscious tie, although
nonetheless immediate and spontaneous. This is the ideal Parable of
the true "childhood" of the spirit that does not abandon itself to
God blindly and automatically, but serenely and responsibly.
4. At this point, the praying person's profession of trust is
extended to the entire community: "O Israel, hope in the Lord both
now and for ever" (Ps 131: 3). In the entire people which
receives security, life and peace from God, hope now blossoms and
extends from the present to the future, "now and for ever".
It is easy to continue the prayer by making other voices in the
Psalms ring out, inspired by this same trust in God: "To you I was
committed at birth, from my mother's womb you are my God" (Ps
22: 11). "Though my father and mother forsake me, yet will the
Lord receive me" (Ps 27: 10). "For you are my hope, O Lord; my
trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth; from my
mother's womb you are my strength" (Ps 71: 5-6).
5. Humble trust, as we have seen, is opposed by pride. John Cassian,
a fourth-fifth century Christian writer, warned the faithful of the
danger of this vice that "destroys all the virtues overall and does
not only attack the tepid and the weak, but principally those who
have forced their way to the top".
He continues: "This is the reason why Blessed David preserved his
heart with such great circumspection, to the point that he dared
proclaim before the One whom none of the secrets of his conscience
escaped: "Lord, may my heart not grow proud, nor my gaze be raised
with haughtiness; let me not seek great things that are beyond my
strength'.... Yet, knowing well how difficult such custody is even
for those who are perfect, he does not presume to rely solely on his
own abilities, but implores the Lord with prayers to help him
succeed in avoiding the darts of the enemy and in not being injured
by them: "Let not the foot of the proud overtake me' (Ps 36:
12)" (Le Istituzioni Cenobitiche, XII, 6, Abbey of Praglia,
Bresseo di Teolo, Padua, 1989, p. 289).
Likewise, an anonymous elderly Desert Father has handed down to us
this saying that echoes Psalm 131: "I have never overstepped my
rank to walk higher, nor have I ever been troubled in the case of
humiliation, for I concentrated my every thought on this: praying
the Lord to strip me of the old man" (I Padri del Deserto. Detti,
Rome, 1980, p. 287).
[To special groups:]
I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today,
including groups from Japan, South Korea, Jamaica and the United
States of America. I thank you for the affection with which you have
greeted me. May you have a happy stay in Rome. Upon all of you, I
invoke the peace and joy of Jesus Christ Our Lord!
My thoughts now turn to the young people, the sick,
and the newly-weds. Today, we are celebrating the Memorial of
St Lawrence, Martyr, a shining example of a Christian who lived his
total attachment to the divine Master with courage and evangelical
heroism. Dear friends, imitate his example and, like him, always be
ready to respond faithfully to the Lord's call.
The Holy Father then led the prayer of the "Our Father" and imparted
the Apostolic Blessing.
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- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
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