Advent Calendar Day 16: Mary Did You Know

There are two moments in noted anti-Semite Mel Gibson’s brutally ugly (but ferociously compelling)  Passion picture that brought some tears to my eyes.  First, when Mary of Nazareth mops up her son’s blood from the courtyard.  Second, when she watches her son stumble under the weight of his burden on the Via Dolorosa, and her eyes fill up with memories of her baby son stumbling as he took his early steps.  The mother’s pain was a lot more effective than the recreation, blow by bloody blow, of Jesus getting the shit beaten out of him could possibly have been.

I think one of the most compelling statements made about the Nativity by the Four Evangelists is from Luke’s second chapter.  “Mary treasured all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”  Simple country girl, as near as we can tell, and here she is being shown signs and wonders.  Not even married, and here’s the Herald of the Lord God on her doorstep.  Wrung out from the hard work of producing an entire human person from inside her body somewhere furnished solely with a feed trough, and here’s a bunch of filthy sheep-smelling strangers babbling about angelic choirs.  Navigating the chaos of the Holy City for her first-born’s bris and she can’t even get up the steps of the temple without being accosted by prophets overwhelmed by the presence of the babe in her arms.  Minding her own business after all the fuss has died down, and all of a sudden there’s a caravan of stargazers from way, way out of town showing up at her door like Thorin and Co., and shortly after that her husband gets a dream warning that Herod’s gunning for them and they need to split for Egypt, where their ancestors were slaves.

Even setting aside all the madness of the non-canonical smiting and resurrecting and dragon-taming and so forth that the boy got up to in his youth according to the infancy gospels, the wife of Joseph went through some strange stuff.

And all this she stored up and pondered.  Eventually she and her newly formed family go back to Judea and settle down to a quiet life of carpentry and household management.  The boy goes to the Synagogue to learn his Hebrew from the rabbis, and while his mastery of the Torah and the Prophets was astounding, he was just a boy.

And then he goes off, preaching an astounding and revolutionary message, effectively declaring himself the fulfillment of prophecy, healing, exorcising, commanding the elements.  And all this time, this ordinary woman who’d been pondering these things for so long, what must this have been to her?

And then they take him, throw him in front the lynch mob, and tear him apart in about the most brutal and degrading manner possible, and there she is to see it happen.  Standing at his feet, next to her boy’s closest friend, she watched her son die.  What must that have been like?  Words can’t bind that kind of grief.

Then, three days later, she was there to see how things had changed.



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