|Pieta by El Greco|
And amid all of that, some weighty and important dates are coming up: this Sunday, January 22nd, when Eli/Miriam would have been 23 years old; and next Sunday, January 29th, the anniversary of his passing. Lord forbid that pushing paper and popping pills should so preoccupy my life that I forget this. "If I forget thee, let my right hand forget its cunning."
In the midst of this, and in the middle of a dark night several days ago, a thought jerked me awake.
Mary lost her child also.
It is hardly a new thought. It is anticipated right from Jesus' presentation in the temple, when the aged prophet Simeon blesses Jesus. He utters the words that we now know as the Nunc dimittis, the words that currently seem so significant to me at Evening Prayer,
Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.
Then he goes on to speak to Mary specifically, and says "This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel". And then, parenthetically, as though it were a minor matter, come the words of my title: "By the way, a sword will pierce through your own soul also."
Mary lost her child also.
Traditional understandings have always interpreted Simeon's word here as a prophecy of the Crucifixion, and especially of Mary's grief at the loss of her firstborn (the Pieta, often depicted in Christian art.) I think they are right. But if they are, imagine Mary, knowing from day one what was coming, knowing that any moment in her son's life might be the moment when the state comes for him, when the "grave opens its mouth" in the language of the Psalms. Hear the interaction at the wedding in Cana in the light of that knowledge
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour is not yet come." (John 2:3,4)Mary lost her child, and she knew that loss was coming.
I am not a Catholic. But I have never felt so close to the Blessed Virgin as in that sudden moment of midnight wakefulness. I could, if not pray to her, at least talk to her. We are both members of a club that nobody wants to join, a club of those who cannot be comforted, because their children are no more (cf. Matthew 2:18)
Mary lost her child, and the powerful and prosperous joined forces to destroy him.
As Eli/Miriam's birthday approaches, I cannot but think of the temporary triumph of the powers of darkness as represented by the erasure of information about LGBTQ rights from the White House web page immediately after the inauguration of the new president today. Just so did the authorities of his time attempt to erase Jesus himself. "Come, let us wipe him out; let his name be remembered no more!" (cf Psalm 83:4)
Mary lost her child, but her mourning was turned into joy.
Jesus' resurrection gave the cosmic middle finger to the powers of death. It brought joy to Mary (though how should we understand the Ascension? another discussion, I think) and hope to the disciples' hearts. The rest of us club members are still watching. Waiting.
We are waiting for the third day.
May it come soon.