She had trembled when the elderly priest took her new-born son from her arms.
She had trembled at his words. Words of wonder and fear.
Her heart riven from the moment the angel stepped across her threshold, cracked open, wider still.
‘A sword will pierce your heart also’
As this child of Light kindled a flame of life with her body and her soul, the fire burned. Branded forever, with the name of God seared upon her being.
The Word of God stirring within her.
Like every mother before and after her, this daughter of Eve carried both the joy and the pain with the gift of new life. Like many young women down the millennia, she had known scandal and stigma, the sneers of assumption and misunderstanding.
The angel had sent her to Elizabeth’s door.
An older woman hollowed out with longing for a child, now full-bellied with spirited energy. The shame of barrenness had drawn lines upon her face that crinkled now with joy as Mary stepped within her arms.
Mary felt the child leap, as heart met heart, and tummies touched in the embrace.
A gasp of recognition.
A new name that rang in her ears and shivered down her skin. She rested her hand on the tiny child within, and reeled afresh at what this could mean.
His birth had been a journey of fear and joy, and stepping out into the unknown.
No familiar faces, comforting surroundings, no mother’s touch of hand to guide her through. Almost a child herself, she’d birthed him on a squalid floor, an outcast from the start. Shepherds had gathered to gawp in wonder at this baby in the straw.
Strangers from the East had come..
What did they know? What gifts were these they had brought?
Gold for a king… for one whose brow
would only know a twist of scorn and hate
whose proclamation writ upon a cross..
And yet they knew that He was more
than just an earthly king, as low they knelt
before the child, in worship and in awe.
Frankincense, the oil of homage, honour
given with Myrrh, the spice of death and grief;
strange gifts , indeed, to give
a tiny child who lay beneath a star.
A flight in the dark, refugees of murderous hate, she’d carried him mile upon weary mile towards an alien land. A place of safety she could rock her child to sleep. She would have walked forever to protect the trusting arms about her neck, the small head lying heavy on her shoulder.
He’d grown as children do, and ran from the shelter of her arms, scraping his knees and bruising his heart and hers. She’d lost him in the crowd. Fear clutched and speared as pushing through the throng, she’d searched for that beloved face. His tousled hair. How could she have failed him, let him slip from her sight? Angry with herself, and wound up with worry, she chanced upon him in the temple courts. A slight figure of a boy, surrounded by aged men. Deep in discourse, he’d not even noticed she was gone, seemed puzzled at her distress. The more she knew this child of her heart, the less she understood. The sword pricks drew blood & smarted.
He’d left her home, his father’s trade, an itinerant with nowhere to lay his head.
She worried, even as she witnessed the wonders and the growing crowds.
Worried as she heard rumours and tattles of the marketplace and synagogue. The whispers that kept her eyes staring at the dark.
She’d joined the press and push of the multitude that swarmed around her son.
Called to him from outside the close-packed dwelling that separated them. Called in vain. Deaf to her pleas, he did not come. Sharp sword that sliced through frail flesh.
All her worst nightmares had come to pass. She’d watched them take her boy and scourge the skin that she’d caressed. Nailed the hands she’d held, the feet she’d kissed to rough-hewn wood. Watched his agony, as her own heart bled.
Dared to stay when others fled. Dared to meet his eyes, although it took all the courage in her soul. Helpless before his pain, his dying breaths.
The sword cleaved her motherhood, her very core.
He spoke. Voice a raspy whisper, but no less beloved, no less familiar than his first stumbled syllables as a tiny tot. His eyes that had held her own, flicked to the man at her side. His closest friend, standing with her in the dark.
with fierce intensity beamed his meaning to the disciple that he loved.
Take care of her, take care of her for me.
Her pain was harder than his own to bear, as his for her.
The old priest had spoken true. As broken bread, her heart was held in God’s nailed pierced hands.
A life lifted from obscurity
Held in hands that hefted galaxies
Hallowed by an ask
To bear the weight of favour
Daughter of Eve,
Giving God a thankful heart
By holding His, within
Lanced by sword
That pierced Father, Spirit, Son.
Blood of her blood
Poured out for those
That clamoured for
Her whole life
Offered on the altar
A readiness to be God’s Yes
Shared out to hungry hands
To feed a world