December 8, 2021
With these two brief excerpts from Father John Foley’s magnificent book, we see a young Mary – innocent, joyful, and delightfully human. She is a Mary we can relate to and turn to in trusted prayer.
This was a little child who knew not man,
Nor life, nor all the needed frauds of life,
Nor any compromise, and when she turned
To raise the earthen jar, and faced the airs
Of Spring, she smiled for young security,
And she was glad. These were her own, these lanes,
Of Nazareth. She’d known the slope and feel
Of them for all her years, and they had known
Of her, and she was walking now and was
Familiar, and the well she sought not far
Beyond the clustered house was so old
It had become a part of permanence.
The sky around it was so clear, serene
With blue, and framed with hills that had been hers
For always, and which lifted up a silence
She had loved. These thresholds were her friends,
These white walls leaning, and the narrow doors,
And she could watch the shadows and the slant
Of sun, and turn a corner so, and hear
The farther crowing of a cock, and guess
That in the marketplace were dusty sheep
She could not hear; and passing on, she marked
With deeper care that from an opened window
Rose the sound of psalms. She was at home.
few streets and the ruts in them were home,
And she was sure, and young, and now the others
At the well had called to her, and said
Among them it was Mary who had come.
And smiling in the peace that mantled her,
She reached her father’s door again and stepped
Within to old repeated tasks and cares
That for these brief months still would be her own.
No change had come because the plighted word
Of Joseph had been said, and villagers
Could recognize she was betrothed to him.
The spinning must be done, the weaving threads
Be caught and mended, and the knots untied,
The pans and ovens filled with bread, the crusts
Must still be hoarded, and the counted needs
Of poverty be met. She walked upon
The stairs and watched for Joachim, and called
Across the street to neighbors and received
Their news, and when the day was bright, she closed
The shutters to the sun.
She woke, and slept,
And moved, and bound her hair up in a braid.
She saved the moments out that gave her heart
To God, as she had always done, and all
Around her, Nazareth was small and old
And settled on its hills, and kept the old
Ways it had learned. She was a young girl here….
But when across the years we see her so,
Our generation finds it hard to think
Of her as one with us. Our stains have made
Us hesitant, and sad remembrance curls
And turns within to slow the prideful binding
To ourselves, as if the very claim
Could soil in her the grace whose essence is
It is not soiled. This name is benediction
On our blood, defense and refuge, hope
And harbor, and our one fair memory
Of innocence, and we have known too long
Its silence on the world’s wild clamoring
Not now to know this name is uttered prayer
And not a name.