Yesterday’s post proved cathartic. I am now sitting at my cluttered writing desk. And with fingers on keyboard, I ponder life two thousand years ago, in the village of Nazareth, and wonder about the young Mary’s everyday life — before it was all shaken and stirred by that scary angel who dropped in without calling.
Mary is the one to ponder and treasure words in her heart. St. Luke says this all the time about Mary in the gospel he wrote about Mary’s first-born son. And like anyone the least bit connected with Jesus, and as mothers everywhere tend to be with any of their children at one time or another, Mary not only pondered, but she would come to wonder how the world was treating her child.
Like Mary, I tend to ponder and wonder at life. I treasure words, like those written in The Luminous Word — a small Advent booklet that arrived in last week’s mail — where author Jan L. Richardson sees a different Mary than I, on that famous occasion where she entertained her unexpected angel. Ms. Richardson writes:
“She is reading when the angel appears. Or so the medieval artists told it; in so many of the paintings of the Middle Ages, Mary holds a book as Gabriel greets her. She is reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, sometimes, or, in a lovely turn of anachronism, from a Book of Hours. This is a woman, the artists suggest, who is steeped in words. Long before choosing to bear the Word, before agreeing to become the mother of God, Mary had been immersing herself in the ancient texts, letting the prayers and stories that had spiraled through the generations unwind in her.”
The author’s words paint a lovely vision. But it doesn’t quite mesh with the picture I carry around of the young Mary’s life. Like most Jewish girls of the time, Mary probably could not read; instead, I think Mary’s education would have been more practical, centered around the tasks of everyday life — making meals, tending and mending laundry, and keeping house. It was neither glamorous nor romantic.
This was Mary’s lot and I don’t imagine she had time to sit and contemplate the deeper mysteries of life. Until, that is, when mystery invaded her life, making the act of contemplation no longer an idle luxury.
Mary carried mystery in her womb, nurtured him at her breast and watched over him until he was grown, when she did what all good mothers past and present are called to do: She let her child go, to live his own life, however he saw fit.
Then, out of sight, but never out of mind or heart, Mary waited. She waited to hear a word from Jesus, while she went about her everyday tasks and waited on her children still at home. The waiting was hard. I imagine Mary’s waiting was far worse than waiting in the Wal-Mart checkout line.