One day years ago I was in Morning Prayer with a small group. Psalm 45 was one of the readings. It is a “noble song” (vs 1) in praise of a king who rules and conquers (or about whom it is hoped will rule and conquer) in the cause of truth and justice. Verse 17 contains the line “In place of fathers, O King, you shall have sons;” One of the members of the groups exclaimed afterwards: “What the heck does that mean, anyway; ‘In place of fathers you shall have sons’?”
We didn’t have a discussion about it. No one proffered any interpretation. And had it not been for that question, I might never have given it a second thought. In Gestalt psychology terms, the question caused the phrase to shift from undifferentiated background to the figure with focus. Questions do that. It caused me to think about it, and I’ve come up with a meaning that makes sense to me.
It is simply this: Look to the future, not the past. If you have famous ancestors who did great things, do not rest on their laurels. Do not find the meaning of your life in being their descendent; be something yourself. Dare to be great too. And if you are of humble origins, with no noteworthy ancestors at all; do not let that hinder you. Be and do in your own right. The “sons” you shall have are not only a reference to the establishing of a ruling dynasty but a metaphor for the future you will help shape by realizing your own full god given potential.
I close with the collect for today, St. Patrick’s day, for the thought applies not just to economic or political or familial dynasties but to those who would shape the spiritual life of the future.
“Almighty God, … you chose you servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life;…Amen”
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 17-March-2015.