Sermon: Margaret of Scotland

Saint Margaret, Queen of Scotland by Nicolas de Largilliere

Margaret of Scotland was an English princess born in Hungary as her father, Edward, was in exile. As kingdoms rise and fall, it appeared that Edward could return from exile to be crowned king, but no sooner had he arrived… he died. The family was at the mercy of those who would continue to rule. Eventually, Margaret and her family were forced to run for their lives, so they decided to return to Hungary. However, a storm blew their ship north, where it wrecked on the shores of Scotland.

Margaret had hoped to become a religious, but once in Scotland, she was noticed by the King of Scotland, Malcolm. Malcolm was smitten. From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: 

Then began Malcolm to yearn after the child’s [Edgar] sister, Margaret, to wife; but he and all his men long refused; and she also herself was averse, and said that she would neither have him nor anyone else, if the Supreme Power would grant, that she in her maidenhood might please the mighty Lord with a carnal heart, in this short life, in pure continence. The king, however, earnestly urged her brother, until he answered Yea. And indeed he durst not otherwise; for they were come into his kingdom … The prescient Creator wist long before what he of her would have done; for that she would increase the glory of God in this land, lead the king aright from the path of error, bend him and his people together by a better way, and suppress the bad customs which the nation formerly followed: all which she afterwards did. The king therefore received her, though it was against her will, and was pleased with her manners, and thanked God, who in his might had given him such a match. (Source)

Did she succeed in leading the king aright and bending the people away from their evil customs? The short answer: yes. With King Malcolm, she helped bring reform to the Scottish church, built schools and hospitals, and participated in rebuilding the monastery on Iona.  In addition, they established a Benedictine monastery in Dunfermline.  In her piety and desire to serve as Christ served, she would not sit down to eat her own meal until she had fed her nine orphan children and twenty-four other paupers.  During Advent and Lent, she and Malcolm would feed and serve 300 of the poor in their kingdom—not only did they serve the meal on the royal dishes, but they served them on their knees. 

She died in 1093, four days after her husband was killed in a battle with the English.  Her final words, “O Lord Jesus Christ who by thy death hast given life to the world, deliver me from all evil?”  She was forty-seven.

Our friend, John Reneau, gave us a different understanding of the parables that we read in our Gospel today: Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” John said he always understood himself as the man who found the treasure, but that he had read in a commentary that Jesus is that man and that we are the treasure Jesus seeks, and that Jesus gave up everything to have us with him.

Jesus also said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” With the understanding John provided: Jesus is the merchant, we are the pearl, and Jesus gave up all to have us with him. When it comes to Margaret of Scotland… I like John’s understanding of the parable, for Margaret of Scotland is also known as The Pearl of Scotland.

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