Yoked: for St David’s Day – 1 March 2021
This is not an inviting image, but persevere with it.
A family is ploughing a field. They are too poor to own cattle/oxen, so it is the men who yoke themselves together and pull the plough, while the woman (wife/mother) steers, holding the blade into the earth. Notice how large the field is, how unrelenting. Notice how physical and all consuming this work is.
This might not seem an obvious choice for St David’s day, however it illustrates a practice that David thought essential to the shared life of his monastic community. The monks did not have oxen or animals, but yoked themselves together to plough. David himself took his turn, bending his back for the good of his community. This practice has something to say about the reality of David’s ministry as Bishop, the effort and determination required to plough a straight furrow for a diocese.
The picture is a drawing by the German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1902).
Therefore with increasing zeal they labour with hand and foot;
they place the yoke on their shoulders;
with unwearied arm they dig into the ground mattocks and spades;
they carry in their saintly hands hoes and saws for cutting;
they provide with their own labour all the necessities of the community…….
Each to himself and the brethren is riches, each too an ox……
But each did the task enjoined either with prayer or well-directed meditation.
Life of St David
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”