Friday, December 21, 2012

*Do You See What I See?*

Every night was the same. Mary slumbered until some time between the second and third watch. She would wake then lie wide-eyed until dawn. It had been this way ever since the great and terrible day of the angel. After his visitation, Mary found it difficult to close her eyes, to even blink. Every time she did, she watched not her life, but her son's death, pass before her vision.
            How many times each night did she question her divine appointment? She would move her lips but make no sound.
            "Oh, Sovereign Lord, why? Why did you choose me? Holy Father, I do not think I shall be able to bear it. Please, will you not take this lot from me?”
            Almost always, she felt her hair stir as a slight breeze sighed through the room where she lay. One night she thought she heard the wind speak: "I am.” She had turned onto her stomach, to be face down.
            "Forgive me, my Lord. Your will is perfect, and good. Let it be done to me according to what you have said."
            "You are a prophet, Mary," her cousin Elizabeth had said, "a prophetess. But do not tell the men. They would laugh at you, or yell. Scorn your youth, and your gender."
            "A prophet? I think not," Mary said. "Did not Joel, the son of Pethuel, write of our people having visions? I do not speak for the Lord. He merely shows me things."
            This was after Elizabeth had made a fuss over Mary's arrival. She had washed Mary’s feet herself instead of summoning a servant for the task. All the while she murmured things like, "How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
            Mary shook her head. "Elizabeth, stop," she said. "I am just a girl, your cousin, the one you see every year at Passover in Jerusalem. Now tell me, what it is like to feel your son move inside you?"
            Elizabeth took Mary's hands and placed them on either side of the tautness beneath her breasts. She glanced down, smiled.
            "Can you believe I possess a bust like this? At my age? Zechariah—"
            Elizabeth stopped when she saw Mary blush, bowed her head, spoke to her belly.
            "Son? Is my cousin, Mary, a prophetess?"
            Mary watched her right hand move. "He kicked me!"
            She knelt and rested her cheek on Elizabeth's swell. "Baby boy, is the child I carry the Son of the Most High God?"
            Mary sat back on her heels and rubbed her face. "That hurt!”
            She gulped and her eyes filled with tears. Elizabeth took her hands and pulled her to standing. She held Mary close and patted her back. Mary thought she could feel faint and gentle movements from inside Elizabeth's belly, as if the baby wanted to communicate to her with his tiny hands.
            "Shalom, cousin. Shalom," Elizabeth said. "Peace be with you. Remember what the angel said? You are highly favored among women. Does that not please you?"
            Mary pulled away, used her sleeve to dry her face.
            "It does, cousin, indeed it does. I am most grateful that my thoughts and deeds please our Lord, but—”
            Elizabeth shook her head. "But what? What could possibly dampen your joy?"
            Mary wrung her hands. "The angel—  He said God would give my son the throne of David."
            Elizabeth drew her breath in. "But that is good. David was a great man."
            Mary walked to the window and peered out. "King David was a man of war.”
            She sighed and glanced back over her shoulder. "Also, King David did not have the Romans to contend with. And . . ."
            Elizabeth crossed the room and stood behind Mary. She removed Mary's head covering and laid it over her arm, released the younger woman’s hair from its constraints and combed it with her fingers. She whispered into the long, dark waves.
            "And what?"
            Mary's inhale sounded frayed to Elizabeth. "And ever since the angel came, I see things, when I close my eyes."
            Elizabeth rested her hands on Mary's shoulders.
            "You see things. It is as I said. You have the gift."
            Mary spun to face Elizabeth, her face contorted. "No gift this, Elizabeth. I see death, suffering."
            Elizabeth gripped her throat. "For our people? God's chosen remnant?"
            Mary lowered her head. Tears fell from her chin to her garment.
            "No," she said. "Of my son, my baby boy, but grown. And no one, no not one, acts on his behalf."
            Elizabeth winced. "How do you bear it, dear one?"
            Mary turned back to the window and squinted across the distance.
            "Promises," she said. "The promises of our Lord: 'Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.'  That comforts, sometimes."
            Behind her, Elizabeth shook her head. "You are so young, and yet, a stronger woman than I.”
            The older woman slipped between Mary and the window. She gathered the young woman's hands in her own, arranged them on her girth again.
            "Tell me what you see."
            Mary shrank back, shook her head. Elizabeth nodded slowly, her eyes narrow. Mary closed hers, saw, shuddered. She opened her eyes wide, to stop the vision.
            Elizabeth's voice was low, almost a growl. "Tell me."
            "No.” The word was a gasp, a plea.
            Elizabeth cupped Mary's chin, lifted it so their eyes met. "I want to know."
            "You do not."
            "I need to, Mary."
            Mary shook her head. "You know not what you ask, cousin."
            "Tell me," Elizabeth said, "so I know how to pray."
            "You cannot pray away his destiny."
            Elizabeth tilted her head. "Can I not?"
            Mary's mouth fell open. Her eyes widened. "No, you cannot. Pray for his strength, and yours, and Zechariah's."
            Elizabeth's eyes glittered with tears. She ran two fingers down the side of Mary's face.
            "I see now," she said, "why He chose you. Now tell me."
            Mary squeezed her eyes shut. Sobs wracked her small frame but she spoke what she saw.
            "I see a king. And a young woman. She is very beautiful, lovely in form. She dances for him. She whispers in his ear. He smiles and then suddenly soldiers— The king sent them, for your son.” Mary twitched as her flesh crawled. She swallowed. "For his . . . head."
            Mary opened her eyes when she heard Elizabeth moan. There she was, on the floor, in a crumple. 


Tony said...

beautiful and so thoughtfully touching!!

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas! Beautiful capture of a beautiful time!

writingdianet said...

Thanks, friends! Hope your holidays are merry and bright:)


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