Mary sits on the roof of the busy household, with her face toward the sun in the cool of the morning.
This is John’s house, where she was led after she saw her first-born son taken down from the cross.
She hears the women working below, and she wants to be helpful, but she knows that this is not really her house, and her heart is tired.
Her hands are bent from many years of hard work, raising children, preparing meals, cleaning and mending.
When she was young, she sometimes helped Joseph in his shop, with baby Jesus swaddled against her body; and later, playing on the floor.
And now she is old and her first-born child is dead.
She wonders what it was all for. She wonders what the angel meant when he said,
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever;
his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:32)
“I didn’t need you to be a king,” she whispers.
She closes her eyes against the memory of the sword being thrust into the side of her beloved son. She cannot get the sight and sound of that out of her head.
She thinks back many years, to the old man in the temple, Simeon, and his words,
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Luke 2:34, 35
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
She feels as if the sword that went into Jesus’ side has been thrust into her heart. And it is there still.
She can hear the other women in the household moving about their daily tasks. They are kind, and they are gentle with her, but she knows they are also afraid.
John hasn’t been home since he brought her to his house. He and the other disciples are hiding somewhere in Jerusalem.
Mary knows that the women in the house are whispering, and wondering, and praying that their sons, husbands, fathers, won’t be next.
She bows her head and prays that too.
And with her eyes closed she feels a change in the light. A shadow has come over her face.
She senses that someone is there.
Thinking it is one of the women come to check on her, she whispers, “I’m alright. I don’t need anything.”
A hand touches her head and she hears a voice say softly, “Ima” (Mother).
She squeezes her eyes shut more tightly. She is afraid to open them and discover that there is no one there.
But this man kneels before her and puts his hands on either side of her face. She reaches up and covers his hands with hers.
She knows these hands.
She touches his face. She feels the wounds – the marks from the thorns, the bare chin where his beard was plucked out.
But she knows this face. She pulls his head to her chest and rocks and weeps. She holds him like she did when he was a boy.
She opens her eyes as he pulls back a little. His face is marred, but in it she sees joy. She sees all the mischief and kindness, compassion and resolve that were always part of him.
Again, he says, “Ima.” There is a smile in his eyes and he takes her hands in his.
How can this be?
“Ima,” he says, “I am well. I am healed and whole. And I am blessed to be your son. Thank you. Thank you for believing the promise. Thank you for every time you picked me up when I fell, and tended to my skinned knees and torn clothes. Thank you for loving me so.”
Jesus stands and pulls Mary to her feet. He embraces his mother one more time.
“Ima, I wanted to see you first. You were the first to know me on earth, to see me and hold me, and you are the first now. I must go to my disciples, and soon I will return to my Father. I will send my Spirit and you will know that I am with you always.”
Jesus kisses her head and steps back. And he is gone.
He is gone. But he is not dead anymore.
She whispers to the empty space where he just stood,
“I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.”
Mary lifts her face to the sun again and says,
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary feels lighter. She misses her son still, but she thinks she might like a little something to eat, after all. And she turns and enters the house.
Inhale: The image of a mother
Exhale: Is also the image of God.
That’s what I would have said…