This feast beckons us to join the company of light-seekers and light-bearers. It surrounds us with wisdom born of decades of waiting, hope honed and fidelity tested over generations, promises kept, destinies foreshadowed. It welcomes us to the company of those whose knowing springs from depths of watching, seeing, listening, trusting.
A young mother and her husband, faithful observers of the Law, travel to the Temple in Jerusalem from a backwater village in Galilee. Proudly they bring their new baby boy to offer thanks and to present him to God. They do not yet know about the later journeys to Jerusalem that will define — pierce — their lives.
Simeon and Anna, living links with generations of believers in God’s promise, see that promise coming true. Luke tells us that both elders speak, bearing witness to a God who keeps faith, though we notice that the visions and words of Anna the prophetess remain unrecorded, shadowed.
Mary ponders the baby she holds in her arms. She knows that this overwhelming gift of God is not hers alone, but a gift given to her as Life and Light for all. Perhaps, in some deep, undiscovered place within her heart, she knows that the inevitable letting go of her child will cost much more than just sending him off to make his way in the world. Perhaps…
But at this moment of light and joy in Jerusalem’s Temple, Mary is utterly sure of what she does know:
What Mary Knew
That he was beautiful,
love’s most holy writ.
That he was the world in small,
and she loved it.
That he had undone death.
That he would be her joy.
That he would grow more beautiful
as he became a boy.
That he was grace in human form
and paradise to hold.
That he smelled like eternity.
That he would not grow old.
That he was heaven’s gift,
dressed in flesh and baby clothes.
That he was wholly beautiful.
What every mother knows.
Special thanks to Angela Alaimo O’Donnell for the use of her poem, What Mary Knew, originally published in America, December 19–26, 2011; used by permission of the poet.
–Reflection by Sr. Regina Bechtle, SC
Image: Madonna and Child — Boundless Love, copyright 1999, Janet McKenzie www.janetmckenzie.com
Collection of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Sr. Regina, a writer, retreat leader, speaker, and spiritual director, serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York.