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Reflections on Psalm 131: I Still My Soul And Make it Quiet.

Saturday Reflections by Sr. Doreen, SSJD.

(Psalm 131)

Lord, I have little or nothing
I am no one and can bring nothing to you at all.
I am only a simple human being.
I understand little of earth’s great affairs.
But I know this, that I must still my soul in quietness, and like a child who rest upon its mother’s breast, await in your presence in the silence, listening,
And in this waiting silence, remain awake forever.
(Lynn Bauman translation)

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 marvellous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul like a child quieted at its mother’s breast.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore.
(W Brueggemann translation)

O Lord, I am not proud; I have no haughty looks.
I do not occupy myself with great matters, or with things that are too hard for me
But I still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother’s breast;
My soul is quieted within me.
O Israel, wait upon the Lord, from this time forth for evermore.
(BAS translation)

May we cherish the silence and not be afraid. 
May we know it not empty but full of Presence.
May the Love at its heart calm our fears. 
May we know the gentle touch of a trusting hand.
(Jim Cotter’s psalm 131 prayer)

This psalm 131 is a tender psalm that calls us to stand still and awake before God – this is, I believe, the open door of the God who awaits us.  It is the call to an inner attitude of waiting and listening silence before God. In this psalm, God is imagined here as Mother and has wrapped herself around our humanity in an eternal embrace.

The art of being still and quiet becomes a challenge in our hectic world, but we all know how important finding a real balance is. The psalm is pointing out how important it is that we develop an inner attitude or awareness about our relationship with God. It is a real call to waiting and listening in silence before God. 

In a wonderful little book by Holly Whitcomb called “Seven Spiritual Gifts of Waiting” she outlines some of the gifts that waiting and listening in silence hold out for us.  These are patience, loss of control, living in the present, compassion, gratitude, humility and trust in God.  When I can have the courage to still my soul and make it quiet, I know I will find before me the challenge of new life that these gifts will bring.  It is true that silence and stillness can cause me to address issues I might have been running from!

Some Quotes to consider:

St. Augustine: “God is closer to your soul than you are to yourself.”

John of the Cross: “Silence is God’s language.”

“O God of peace, who taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved,
In quietness and confidence shall be our strength;
By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence,
Where we may be still and know that you are God.”
(BAS page 554)