St. Margaret of Scotland – the Pearl of Great Price
Pearls are very beautiful. Their beauty has something to do with their unique luster. Light reflects and refracts from the translucent layers – layer upon layer of mother of pearl. The luster becomes finer as the layers become thinner and more numerous. Some people spend their lives collecting and marveling at pearls.
Today we celebrate Margaret, a 12th century queen of Scotland, who was acknowledged by the whole country as a good and deeply holy woman. She was a woman of profound prayer, who also worked tirelessly for the welfare of the poor. Many people wrote about her, and made much of the appropriateness of her name, for in both Greek and Latin, the name Margaret – Margarata – means pearl. There’s the lovely passage written at her death by Turgot, the 12th century bishop of St. Andrews: “In this virtuous woman, the fairness indicated by her name was surpassed by the exceeding beauty of her soul. She was called Margaret, that is a “pearl,” and in the sight of God she was esteemed a lovely pearl by reason of her faith and good works. She was a pearl to her husband and children, to me, to all of us, even to Christ. And because she was Christ’s she is all the more ours, now that she has left us, and is taken to the Lord.”
I wonder if you know someone whose life is so beautiful, a holy person, that in a way, they seem to radiate light from within – perhaps in the way that a beautiful pearl does – reflecting and refracting the light of Christ?
I will always remember Mrs. Gauntlet. She was a very, very elderly lady who lived in the first parish I served after ordination. I was 25, she probably 95. She lived in a tiny cottage, and I would love dropping by for a cup of tea. I still remember her face and her blue eyes. They shone, quite radiantly with the love of God. I always left after my visit with an inner glow, carrying light with me.
A retreat is a good time to remember in prayer all those who have been like pearls to us – those who have lit up our own lives, and have helped and guided and inspired us along the way – and to give thanks to God for them.
The glory of the pearl of great price is also, above all, a story about seeking. Jesus turns to his disciples and to us and asks, “What are you looking for?” So today, what have you come to this monastery for? To worship, to be on retreat? What are you looking for? Perhaps you’ve collected lots of pearls during your life. Lots of shining accomplishments, lots of dazzling acquisitions. But perhaps you’ve also glimpsed another pearl – but this one shines with a luster that is so much more beautiful. But this pearl came with a great price. We may need to let go of some of our favorite pearls, in order to acquire this one. But this is so beautiful. What might you need to let go?
But in your prayer, you may just also catch sight of an even deeper mystery. That the one you are seeking is also seeking you. That in his eyes, you are the pearl of great price, for whom he is prepared to give all.
Please support the Brothers work.
The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.