Bethlehem, near Manger Square,
down a short street filled with tourists amid shops strewn with olive wood trinkets
and the shavings spread right here on the premises by artisans working right before our eyes.
It’s the site of the Church of the Milk, a fabled place where the Virgin Mother fed the Babe,
born just hours earlier in a cave below St. Catherine’s Church.
In a supposedly delirious divine accident, a drop of milk fell onto local limestone, Jerusalem stone, and whitened it everywhere, forevermore.
Some of our revelations rest on ridiculously precarious mythological platforms,
and yet we believe from Crusader times that there was a miracle here.
The faithful girl fed her God.
Wanting so much to know this deeper truth, we wander down a long corridor away from the main shrine where, wonder of wonders, we find a solitary nun behind glass.
She belongs to a contemplative order of perpetual adoration.
She kneels before a monstrance in silence and statuary reverence.
A delicately gilt, monumentally Baroque, German Madonna and Child,
singular variant focus against the far wall, cannot compare with the
wondrous woman kneeling there alone, motionless, encouraging belief and hope.
Blessedly I find that I want to love Him more, too.
Moved to faith and hope by her monumental habit in motionless contemplation, I know
that there have always been nuns and monks whose life’s work, simply to contemplate constantly God’s goodness, praying in quiet grandeur not quite desolate, demonstrates that one can love God alone.
This activa in contemplatione confers courage on me, without words,
while in her ineffable response to the great Father-Mother, Son, and Spirit God,
she is something beautiful for God.
Her life’s work, without words preaching, loving God back, is prescient proof that this is enough.
Dennis McNally SJ
February/ July 2016