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       The Seven Sorrows of Mary, p.1

           Ted Reynolds
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The Seven Sorrows of Mary


  The Seven Sorrows of Mary

  Ted Reynolds

  Copyright 2013 by Ted Reynolds

  The Seven Sorrows of Mary

  The little boy sat on his mother’s lap as she told him the Christmas story.

  His eyes glowed and his heart beat faster as he imagined the stable and the manger, the shepherds and the magi, the gifts and the angels and the star.

  And then his mother said, “And that little baby was you. The eternal God came to me that night, and He is your Father. And we named you Jesus and you will save our people.”

  The little boy nodded solemnly, and became the first Christian convert.

  The Seven Sorrows of Mary

  The new parents descended the steps of the mighty Temple, and stood a moment in silence before plunging into the teeming streets of the city. Mary looked at the baby in her arms with mingled love and awe.

  “Did you hear what the old man said, Joseph?” she asked. “’A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.’”

  “As long as he grows up to be a good and pious man,” laughed her husband, chucking the baby under his chin.

  “You know he’s more than that,” Mary chided him. “I’ll never forget what the angel told me. ‘He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end’.”

  “He also said ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too’,” Joseph reminded her.

  “I’ll willingly accept whatever suffering the Lord sends me, in return for being the bearer of such glory to Israel,” she replied.

  Looking affectionately at one another, the three entered a nearby alley and were lost to view in the crowd.

  1

  As they scoured the city looking for the boy, she had to keep telling herself that her son would be all right. She had faith in his destiny; he would surely live to rule Israel. But every time she looked at Joseph, fear gripped her heart. Every hour, he looked more and more worn and haggard. What would become of him if they didn’t find the child soon? Despair might kill him first. And she did love the man with all her heart.

  They returned to the temple courts in a desperate search for more information, and there, at last, they saw him, speaking to some of the teachers. The couple came to a halt. Mary fell to her knees, and breathed a quick word of gratitude to the Lord. She looked up at Joseph; color and breath were finally returning to him.

  She knew her son saw them, but he showed no sign of it. He continued speaking to the teachers, and gesticulating. Wasn’t he glad they had found him at last? Suddenly her relief at finding him plunged into irritation. She mounted the steps and took his arm firmly.

  “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

  The boy barely looked at her. He was gazing away with that distant look she knew so well.

  “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

  She didn’t understand. But looking back at Joseph, she saw that, in some way, he did understand. He looked as if struck through the heart. She suddenly realized that he saw his son’s statement as a rejection of himself.

  I’ll have to tell him that just isn’t so, poor man, she thought. But for now we must get the boy home.

  2

  The wedding guests were in high spirits when Mary heard about the steward’s problem. She quickly found Jesus, where he sat sedately with his five followers. That was working out wonderfully. It was only three days since John had so memorably baptized him, and already he had five disciples. Simon was the beefy one, and Nathaniel the one with a silly grin; she didn’t know the others yet. She knew this was the real beginning of her son’s public rise, and she wanted to celebrate it properly.

  She told him, “They’re out of wine.”

  He knew what she was suggesting, but he merely looked at her without expression. “Woman, what’s that to us? It’s not my time yet.”

  She looked at him. “Woman” indeed! She knew what he could do if he chose. She’d just have to force the issue, whether he liked it or not. She turned to the nearest waiter, and said, “Do whatever he tells you.”

  And her son did it, made water into wine perfectly, although she could tell he didn’t approve of it. She didn’t like to pressure him, but he had a lot to achieve, and if she left it all to him, he’d never even get started. Sometimes he had to be reminded that, despite his messianic destiny, she was still his mother. But it hurt that he didn’t completely trust her.

  That same evening she meant to confront him on this, and then help him to prepare the next step, but he had gone alone into the desert without even asking her first.

  3

  Her other sons were chattering about their brother all the way from the beach into the town. “He’s certainly got them excited around here!” noted James. Joses said “I heard a man call him ‘a son of David’.” “Do you think he’ll come home with us?” asked little Judas, clinging closely to his mother.

  Mary hushed them. “Leave that up to Jesus. He knows what he’s doing.”

  It was clear where he was. Quite a crowd had gathered around a large house at the edge of town, trying to hear what was going on within. The family couldn’t push through it; at least not while remaining respectable.

  “Could someone please get the word to the prophet that his mother and brothers would like to see him,” Mary called out. She shifted the baby to her other arm.

  “I heard a man call him a son of David,” repeated Joses. ”Is he really a prophet of God?”

  “He’s much more than that,” she replied. “God has chosen him to be ruler of all Israel.”

  A stout man pushed his way through the crowd towards them, an easier task than pushing in. He looked rather embarrassed.

  “Jesus can’t come out,” he said, “He seems to be too busy.”

  “Too busy to see his mother? Just what did he say?”

  The man looked reluctant to answer. “He said… well, he pointed to his disciples and said ‘These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother’.” He paused and added, “I hope you don’t take it personally.”

  Mary looked at him a long moment, and then turned and left without another word. Her sons, falling suddenly silent, hastened to follow her.

  4

  She sat wearily at the door of the house in the warmth of late summer. From the nearby workshop came the sounds of hammering and sawing. In a drowsy mood she could imagine that it was her old husband still at work, rather than his surviving sons. She wished it were Joseph; she missed that mild, patient man.

  “So much was promised for Jesus; to save our people from shame and to bring back David’s kingdom. But if he doesn’t announce himself soon, I fear that God will tire of waiting, and choose someone else instead,” she thought bitterly.

  Someone was standing silently nearby, waiting for her to look up. It was James, back from Jerusalem, quiet, sober, and affectionate, but not her eldest, not Jesus.

  He shook his head at her questioning. “He says we don’t understand his mission,” he said. “He says we are trying to impose our own goals, instead of God’s, and that has led us astray.”

  “Led us astray,” she said, unable to conceal the harshness in her voice. “It was I who showed him the path prepared for him, just as the angel showed it to me.”

  “Perhaps he believes yours was a false angel,” said James. “He claims to have many angels of his own to consult.”
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  Her lips tightened. “How did he insult me this time?” she asked.

  “He didn’t…”

  “He always does. What did he come up with about his mother this time? Tell me!”

  James gulped. “He was speaking to a crowd of people. Well, he almost always is. And a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you’.”

  Wrapping her arms about her knees, she stiffened a little. “And he replied …?”

  “He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it’.”

  There was a pause. “What else? I can see from your face there’s more.”

  “I didn’t hear it myself, but I was told he has said, ‘Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me’.”

  With a wordless moan, Mary stretched her arm out to her second son. James helped her rise and enter the house.

  5

  ‘At last, when the act was irreversible, the soldiers lowered their pikes, and let the women draw nearer, while they themselves began dicing for the victim’s clothes.

  She wanted to run and kneel at the foot of the cross, to implore him once again to save himself, to summon the angels which were at his command; or else to beg his pardon for having misled him into this awful end; or perhaps to castigate him for thus deserting her. She didn’t know why, but she must seize some recognition from him, some sign that he knew, whether he loved her or despised her, that she was his mother, and had always only wished his good.

  She couldn’t clearly make him out, pinioned so high above her. She wiped her watery eyes, and looked up again. His face, twisted with pain, was turned toward the sky with that distant look she knew so well.

  “Jesus, my son,” she managed to say, but her voice was so weak she thought he must not hear her. But his head moved and he looked down at her. There was no sign of recognition in his distorted features.

  “I am your mother,” she mouthed painfully. “You are my dear son.”

  The gaunt figure on the cross looked steadily at her for a long moment, expressionless. Then his gaze turned to a man standing nearby. “Woman,” he said, “That is your son.” And then he told the man, “That is your mother.”

  And then, his gaze abandoning them, he looked at one of the soldiers. “I’m thirsty,” he said.

  Mercifully, she collapsed, and for a brief time was unaware of horror.

  6

  Mary hurried through the narrow lanes of Jerusalem, not knowing where to look for her son. She had no idea where to search next. In the tomb garden, Joanna and Salome had told her that they had indeed seen him early that morning: they were excited and ecstatic, but had no idea where he had gone now. They were sure they would see him again. At the room where his followers had gathered, they had told her that he had indeed come to them two hours before, that he was alive again and well, that he had told them many wonderful things of which they were not allowed to speak. “To me?” she cried, and Simon had smiled slightly, and said “not to anyone.” John told her, “He said we would see Him again. Why don’t you go to our house, and rest a while?” He tried to rest his arm around her shoulders. She glared at him. “I am looking for my son. You are not my son”. She left them shaking their heads after her in bewilderment. Well, they had all accepted a promise of “a hundredfold repayment for the mothers and fathers they had left.” That certainly showed the kind of selfish, unfeeling persons they were. For them, the fifth commandment was dead.

  But where to look for him now? She felt complete panic, as on that day long ago when she and Joseph had searched this same city for the same lost son. Then they had found him in the Temple. With a sudden surge of hope reborn she started in that direction, only to come to a halt as she realized that there she would find the very men who had given him over to his death! She sank to her knees in utter confusion.

  A soft hand touched her arm. She looked up. It was Mary of Magdala. Her face was kind and comforting. She knew this woman’s reputation, but at this moment she would forgive her everything if she could only help.

  “Have you seen Jesus yet?” asked the Magdalene.

  “No, no! I’m looking for him everywhere. Have you seen him? Where is he?”

  “I don’t know where He is now, but I’ve seen Him. I think maybe I was the very first. He has risen. He is God’s Son. He is the Savior. Rejoice with me.”

  Mary rose. She was shaking uncontrollably. “Then why hasn’t he shown himself to me,” she asked wildly. “I first showed him the way; surely I should have been first to be allowed to greet him back.” She pulled herself together. “Well, I’ll just have to wait for him to remember he has a mother. I’ve been waiting for that for years.”

  And she walked unsteadily away, leaving one lingering note of sorrow to mute the Magdalene’s great psalm of joy.

  7

  Her eyes could no longer see, nor her ears hear, nor her voice be heard, and he had never come. He had never come back to her.

  The long hours passed, and she muttered slow weary words to the God who never answered. Sometimes she praised Him, sometimes she chastised Him, but she never ceased asking him for her dearest son.

  Someone it was her son James at her bedside; sometimes it was John, whom she had finally accepted for his patient kindness to her. Usually she did not know who was there. But never was it who she really wanted, never was it the Jesus who had rejected his mother.

  Now all her limbs ached with age. A rising shadow was creeping over her which she knew would never lift.

  “I thirst,” she whispered hoarsely.

  Someone held a cup of water to her lips. Reaching up to steady it, her hand touched familiar fingers. Her heart thudded in her breast.

  “Jesus? Son?”

  “It is I.”

  Her breath came harshly. “Is it you? At last, my dearest boy. And you won’t leave me again?”

  The cup was withdrawn. His cool familiar voice said softly. “I’m sorry, woman. Where I go, you cannot follow. I well know you never really believed in me.”

  She felt the sword through her soul and then he was gone forever. And, a choking minute later, so was she.

 

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