deeper meaning than even an outsider, who admires it, thinks. It speaks of protection and compassion for the sake of which the little ones are gathered together. It implies that the chickens belong with the mother hen. And except they return to her they can not be shielded against cold and other dangers. The striking figure indicates that the natural place of refuge for the chickens is close by the mother hen. And that they can only be safe and warm in her immediate presence under the cover of her outspread wings.
This striking word of our Lord was borrowed from the figurative language of the Old Testament, which also in turn explains it. The first verse of Psalm 91: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty," is an instance of this metaphorical representation. It is the epitome of what the Psalmist describes elsewhere (61:4): ''I will trust in the covert of Thy wings." The same thought was expressed by the wings of the cherubim covering the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant. It is ever the same thought. God has created the fowl that lovingly gathers her brood under her wings that she might shield and shelter them. And this beautiful figure is held before us that we might seek refuge under the shadow of the Almighty, and trust in the covert of his wings.
This imagery is not borrowed from that which moves in the waters, nor from that which glides along the ground. It is almost never borrowed from four-footed beasts, but mainly from winged creatures that lift themselves above the earth, and live, as it were, between us and heaven.