from A Woman Wrapped in Silence

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.


by Bouguereau

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.

by Mercier

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.

by Degas

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.

2 thoughts on “from A Woman Wrapped in Silence

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