Today, on the day before we celebrate the birth of Jesus, it seems the right moment to remember Mary, this young peasant girl who said yes to an angel and suffered the whispers and shame of conceiving a child before marriage, who gave birth in a strange village far from her home, who held the son of God in her arms moments after she pushed him our of her body. Sometimes, being the favoured one of God, takes us down a road of challenges and heartache before we see the glory of God.
The Lord is With Thee
-from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1
They hail me Mary, full of grace.
They bless me: brave, obedient—holy.
What would you have said to the twelve-foot,
light-soaked man, a gold flecked tower
whose honey lips spoke your name? I said Yes.
Then ran, traveled days, silent, hungry,
purging in the grass, to my cousin’s.
I knew nowhere else to go.
I found Elizabeth, impossibly, full
with child. She, fifty and bare, as pregnant
as I, thirteen, unknown. We, an absurd pair.
Did I hope she would recognize my angel tale,
believe for me what I hardly could?
The Lord is with thee, she said.
Her baby soared inside.
Her face was vague to my memory.
What I recalled was her voice: in candlelight,
she once tucked me under wool with my sisters,
sang us to sleep with poems of Yahweh.
How easily she spoke of God,
as if he were a neighbor, a fish vendor on the street.
Blessed art thou among women. Blessed is the fruit
of thy womb. For three months she hid me
from rumors, from my angry betrothed.
I took walks. I threw up. I ate.
Robes can only hide so much.
Then I stood beside the midwife, water basin
in hand while my cousin squatted and screamed.
I knew what my Yes meant this body must do
and wept for myself, for this child of God
given to my clumsy care.
Who am I? I once said to Elizabeth
after dinner, beside our fire. I am small
and weak in faith. She placed her palm
on my cheek, whispered, You’re God’s.
“This creating out of passion and love, the carrying, the seemingly-never-ending-waiting, the knitting-together-of-wonder-in-secret-places, the pain, the labour, the blurred line between joy and “someone please make it stop,” the “I can’t do it” even while you’re in the doing of it, the delivery of new life in blood and hope and humanity?
This is the stuff of God…”