Saturday, November 12, 2016

November 12 - Margaret of Scotland, Queen, Friend of the Poor


"Come in! You are welcome here my brothers and sisters. Come, eat, and rest."With words like these, Margaret began a practice that would continue for the rest of her life. The poor around the royal residence had come there because there was a slightly better chance of receiving alms when near the king and queen--not because people were more merciful or generous but because people could hardly bear to look upon the sick and destitute without offering something to salve their consciences. The homeless were--and often are--very used to playing this dehumanizing game to survive. They sell their dignity for a crust of bread--their confidence for a cup of water. So, when Margaret flung the doors open and invited them in, they hesitated. It didn't make sense to these people so used to being objects of pity and scorn.But, then, the seven or eight that were there slowly ventured through the grand doors.

They knew Margaret and much of her history. She had been one of the last Anglo-Saxon royals that had fled England after the Norman conquest. She had been twenty-one years old when she fled with her family and had been unmarried. When she arrived, she was noticed by king Malcolm and three-years-later, she was the queen-consort of the king of Scotland by marriage. Nearly every Scot could tell the story of her impact upon the king and Scotland. It was clear that Malcolm was devoted to his beautiful young wife and her values and faith had influenced him enough to change his life and attitude. Scotland was finding Christendom in the loving embrace of Margaret.

She brought the beggars and homeless into the dining room and sat them at her own lavishly appointed table.Each of them must have gasped in awe of the beautiful settings and luxurious furniture. She sat the first of them down in a chair worth more than all his possessions and brought a bowl of water and towel out from underneath it. Without a word, she lifted his foot and washed it with the water and the towel. On her knees before a beggar, the queen offered love in a wordless and powerful way. One by one, she washed the feet of each of her beloved and esteemed guests.

Then, they sat at the table and were served as if they were foreign dignitaries. At first, they took only a few small pieces of food and a little to drink. They were worried about taking advantage of Margaret's hospitality and so Margaret jumped from her seat and personally heaped more food onto their plates. "Eat," she said to them, "there is plenty to go around for my beloved brothers and sisters." So, they ate until they were full and could eat no more. Margaret herself waited until all had begun eating before joining them in the meal. She found sustenance in serving the least of Scotland's people. In the faces of those she served, she saw the face of her Lord and in the footwashing bowl she saw the dirty water that had fallen from her Savior's feet as she had washed them.

This was the practice that Margaret kept for most of her life as she was able. During Lent and Advent, she held great parties and invited hundreds of people into her home and fed and cared for them. She died in 1093 after a life of devoted service to Scotland, Malcolm, and the poor. Having passed on, she left Scotland forever remembering the queen who had been a friend of the poor because of the great love she had for Jesus.

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