Early Life of Mother Mary - Part 4

One day Zaccharia, the chief priest overseeing Mary's education was discussing the scriptures with a small group of holy men. The child sat beside him, for already she was a great favourite with these revered elders. "The Lord made us to serve Him," Zaccharia declared.

"And to glory in His kindness," said Mary softly. Startled, the old priest looked at her. "The little one is fearless and yet all gentleness," he told himself as the others exchanged smiles.

"The Lord can be merciful. That is true Mary," he replied. "You are wise, for one so young."

"Is it wisdom, good father, to see what is all around us?" asked the child. "The Lord must love us very much to have given us this earthly paradise to look after."

When her chores were done, in the remaining hours of each day she went out alone just beyond the gates of the Temple. There she would distribute food and clothing to the poor and the elderly who came hoping for charity. In time the other girls followed her example, and the Temple became known far and wide for its generosity.

One day, as she bathed the brow of a young girl so sick with fever that she was not expected to survive the night. Mary heard angelic singing. She looked to her patient, wondering if the girl had heard it too. No, her friend was sleeping peacefully for the first time in days. Touching the girl's forehead, Mary realised that the fever had passed. Surely it was a miracle ˆ the girl would recover, just as Mary prayed she would. "Mary," a voice suddenly said. "The Lord has seen fit to bring you into this world without the stain of sin. And you use His good favor to help others. By doing so you honour Him greatly."

When Mary turned fourteen, Zaccharia told her, "It is customary for all young maidens at your age to marry." That night an angel appeared to the old priest in a dream and said, "Do not worry, Zaccharia. Tomorrow have each suitor bring with him a staff. The Holy Spirit will give a sign as to who shall be Mary's husband."

The next day the suitors crowded into the Temple, each holding a staff in his hand. Kneeling, they prayed for a sign. All at once a lily was seen to bloom from the staff held by the widower Joseph, a builder and carpenter. And then a snow white dove alighted upon the staff before flying off. "How can it be that the Lord has chosen me?" Joseph said, astonished "I have been widowed for some time and have sons nearly as old as this tender young girl." But Zaccharia shook his head "The Lord has given a sign, Joseph." And turning to Mary the priest asked "Mary what is your wish?" Moved by the events and Joseph's humble words, Mary extended her hand to Joseph, saying, "I accept."

That day the marriage contract was signed, and in twelve months the wedding ceremony would be celebrated. In the meantime, Mary returned to her parents while Joseph departed for a distant town where he was about to begin work on the building of a Temple. The commission was a great honour, but it would separate the couple for nearly a year.

At day break one spring morning, Mary went to draw water from the well before her parents awakened. All at once she heard a voice. "Hail Mary," it said. "The Lord is with you. Holy is your name." And the angel stood before her. "Mary, do not be afraid, "he said. "I am the angel Gabriel, God's messenger. He has sent me to tell you that He wishes you to bear a son."

"But how can such a thing be possible? I am not yet wed," said Mary.

"The Holy Spirit will pass through you as a ray of sunlight passes through a drop of water, and so the child will be called the Son of God." Mary shook her head in wonder.

"Your kinswoman Elizabeth has in her old age conceived a son, and she, like your own mother was once called barren," the angel continued. "But now, thanks to the Lord, Elizabeth is in her sixth month. Indeed, only your consent is needed for such a miracle to be possible, for nothing is impossible for God."

As she listened, Mary was filled with courage. She replied, "Then I give my consent."

Bowing before her, the angel Gabriel Kissed the hem of Mary's robe and then vanished.

Alone, Mary wondered what kind of destiny she had carved for herself. How was she to explain this to her parents? And to Joseph?

The next morning Anna surprised Mary with news. "I have just received a letter from our cousin Elizabeth. The Lord has blessed her, for at last she has conceived a child. It is truly a miracle!" The following day they left for Elizabeth's home to help her as she awaited the birth of the baby. Now, as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary at the door, she called out, "Hail Mary. Mother of God!" and at the same moment, the infant Elizabeth carried leapt for joy within her. Rushing to embrace them both, Elizabeth said to Anna, "Of all the women, Mary is the most blessed and blessed is the infant she carries."

When Mary was alone with her mother, she tried to explain. Anna took her daughter into her arms. "My dearest child, I believe you," said Anna. "But what of Joseph? Will he trust in you as completely?"

When Joseph was told, he blamed himself, for he felt he had failed to protect her, crying "who is he who has deceived me? Who did this evil thing in my house and defiled her?". Then Mary wept and said that she was pure. To spare Mary any public shame, it was decided that she was to go into seclusion, and that the engagement would be broken. But that very night an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Joseph do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived her child through the grace of the Holy Spirit. It will be a son, and you must name him Jesus, for he will be the salvation of the world."

On the way to Bethlehem where they were going to be `enrolled', Mary came down from her donkey, knowing that her time had come. Joseph took her into a cave and while the heavens stood still and the birds of heaven rested, while time itself throughout nature and humanity came to a stop, there, Mary gave birth to Jesus. A great light appeared in the cave as the baby was born. For a moment he was pure light, then as the light faded a child appeared.

Although Mary is not described in any detail she is referred to as an innocent child ˆ her situation is compelling and wondrous. The very delicate treatment of the figure of Mary has contributed to her warm and mysterious presence in later Mariology.

Early manuscripts of the Gospel of James exist in Greek, Syriac, Ethiopic and Georgian. Reaffirming the significance of the role of Mary in the divine play.

The reoccurring themes of purity, chastity, love and compassion dominate the life of Mary, indeed she is the embodiment of these qualities. The qualities of a Mother. But greater than any Mother born of this earth.

Mother Mary pray for us

Aji Thomas David


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