Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. I thought I would share with you the chapter on Mary in my book The Memorial of Jesus. The story takes place at a gathering of Jesus’ friends and family 30 days after his death to reminisce, to tell stories.
The memorial service is actually a Jewish custom, Sheloshim, where the community assists family of the deceased to move on to a new stage, after 30 days, of their grieving. The leader or celebrant of the occasion is Yakov, James in the Bible, He is referred to there as the brother of Jesus and this is verified in other writings. He was a priest so it is fitting that he lead the ceremony. After some ritual and prayer, Yakov calls forth family members and close friend to share their memories of Jesus. Mary, Jesus’ mother, comes near the end of the ceremony. I am sharing her words here as I wrote them in the book. I won’t take the time to alert you to the people she refers to, but these are real characters, according to the Bible and other writings, and these have spoken earlier in the memorial service.
As Mary speaks, she uses the Hebrew name for Jesus, Yeshua:
Miriam tells me I have been buried with Yeshua in the tomb. It feels like that – dark and cold and alone. When Yakov wanted to go ahead with the day of memorial, I fought him. “I am not ready,” I pleaded.
“You will never be ready,” he told me, “but life is ready for your return.” My son is right. The light, though dim, is here once more. Thank you, Yakov, for not listening to your mother this one time.
I want to thank John for the hours he spent sitting with me, and attending to my needs this past month. Such a young man, yet he did not run from the rantings of a woman in distress. Suzanna says the evil spirits are finally growing weary of me. God knows I have grown weary of them. In these final days, sleep is finally coming.
I so want to feel joy again. I want to experience the warmth of the sun and the sweet fragrance of lilies of the valley. I want to weave with woolen thread and hold my precious grandchild, Simeon, and run my fingers through his silken hair. I want to feel the rhythm of the drum and the rain on the roof of my house. I want to sing praises once again to the God I believe has been suffering with me. When I am free, perhaps God will stop weeping as well.
In the weeks since Yeshua’s death, people have wanted to know about his birth and about this early years. Where does one begin?
God gave me a son, and what a fistful he was, always questioning. I will tell you a little story, and it is true. When my husband, Joseph, God rest his soul, took the boys to the synagogue as a good Jewish father should, Yeshua was ever restless. One day, during the recitation of the psalms, Joseph looked down and noticed Yeshua with a stick in hand, drawing in the sand on the floor. He said he felt he should stop him and insist he sit up like the older boys, “But he was quiet,” Joseph said, “and down there the rabbi could not see him.”
After prayers were completed, Joseph knelt to see Yeshua had drawn a picture of a house. He asked whose house it was, and Yeshua said, “It is God’s house.”
“Oh,” Joseph said, “you have drawn a picture of the temple in Jerusalem.”
“No,” Yeshua said. “God doesn’t live there anymore.” Joseph was startled and slightly amused. He told me he looked around to see if the rabbi was near. Then he asked Yeshua in a whisper, “Why did God move out of the Temple?” and Yeshua replied, “Because the people can’t see him there.” Do you see how smart he was even then?
I suspect, Thomas, you were much like Yeshua when you were small. If I could share tea with your mother, God rest her soul, I am sure she would tell me a mother’s stories of a curious little boy. In the early mornings I have seen you go out to greet the sun as it comes up in the East. Yeshua used to do this, and when he left us, I wondered if it was the sun he was seeking. It is right that you go on your journey, Thomas. May the God of light who guided my son guide you as well.
James, I thank you for your insights about the work of the artist. As I listened to your words it occurred to me that when we share in the work of the Creator, we grow attached to the work. Yeshua was my work. All my children are my work, but Yeshua required more of me than the others. The words that came out of my mouth more often with him than any others were, “Listen to me!” It always seemed as if someone else was telling him what to do, and he had to consider my requests in this light. Joseph, God rest his soul, used to say to me, “Our children are not our own. Their father is the One in Heaven, and it is he whose will they must follow.”
I thought when Joseph was ill Yeshua would change his mind about leaving, but he did not. And my husband did not deter him. “He needs to be about his Heavenly Father’s work,” he told me. “He needs to go away to find out what his work is.”
Letting go is the task of the parent, and I fear I am not very good at it. I thought when Yeshua left to do his seeking I had let him go, but clearly I did not, for when he returned and did not remain in Nazareth my heart broke once again. At the cross, God asked me to let him go back to where he came from, back into the dark womb, back into the arms of his Creator. It was more than I could bear. I was clinging too hard, and my clinging was to the dreams I had for Yeshua – not God’s dreams, but my own.
There was a tension between Yeshua and me during the early days of his work. “I am a man who knows what to do,” he said to me. That was his truth. I told him, “You did not allow me the luxury of watching you change. You left as one person and came home another. Give me time to get accustomed to this new man.” That is my truth.
I remember he laughed when I said that. “I am not as crazy a man as I appear, Mother,” he said. “Behind every word and action there is a higher purpose. The Spirit of God has come to dwell in me.”
That is when he asked me to come along with him. “Clopas and Mara are coming. They can use your help watching Simeon. There will be other children as well.” That became my role, the tender of the lambs. And the little lambs, more than anything Yeshua said, awakened my soul to the Kingdom.
Miriam, when Yeshua left for the East, you were just a child, thin as a reed, a little girl who preferred to climb trees and chase rabbits rather than cook and weave. When we stayed at your family’s home in Bethany you used to follow him around like a puppy to get his attention. When we left he complained about how annoying you were. But after his travels he found you transformed into a woman, and he was not so annoyed. When he asked you to come along with us, it was an invitation to walk beside him – not to follow him like a puppy jumping for attention – as the support he knew he would need to do the Father’s work. He called you Mariameme, his tower of strength.
So you want to know the message of the mother? Much wisdom has been shared here today, and I don’t know what more I could add.
Life did not turn out as I thought when I was a young girl, but it is the life set before me. I have had to face many things I would rather not have put into the design of my life. Sadness is a new talis for me. I think I will have to wear it for as long as I live on this earth.
With age comes wisdom, the child of pain and joy. Wisdom sees cause and effect. Wisdom sees that darkness will return and light will return. It perceives the cycle of things. Wisdom sees that knowing the truth about oneself sets one free. This is what I gather from these testimonies of today. One cannot awaken without the truth, and the truth is hard. “The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all. This is the work of the Lord,” we sing, “what a wonderful sight it is!”
I feel Yeshua’s hand upon me.
My last word in the book: AWAKEN!