The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary- 8th September.
It all began with an angel, good news always does! Angels show up rarely but when they do, it’s breaking news. Ask Abraham or Lot or the shepherds in the field or for that matter Joseph, to whom an angel appeared in his dreams.
Gabriel must have been a special angel, for he brings the news of a birth to both, Zacharias, telling him of the coming birth of St. John the Baptist and then to Mary, telling her of the birth of her own son. The annunciation must have shot Gabriel into the spotlight. This is what broadcasters live for; ‘the news story’ of all times and Gabriel could not stop harping that he was picked. Gabriel now had the ‘dream job’ but this one had to be executed in real time.
Nazareth was a small town in the mountains of Galilee but Gabriel had no difficulty finding this place; especially when you’re fitted with divinely supplied GPS. It is no wonder that Gabriel is recognized as the patron saint of messengers, telecommunication and postal workers.
The house in Nazareth was small and modest made of mortar-and-stone walls, cut into a rocky hillside. There were just two rooms and a small courtyard in which a rock-hewn cistern collected rainwater. It was this place that Yehoyaqim (Joaquim), Hannah (Anna) and Miriam (Mary) called home.
Gabriel certainly knew how to make an entrance and this time he was most pleased with the form he took on; he was after all, the divine messenger. But for the sixteen year old Miriam all this was a bit too much. So frightened was she, that Gabriel’s presence almost caused her to fall off the bench she was sitting on. It was a special bench for Yosef (Joseph’s Hebrew name) had given it to her as their betrothal present. He was a carpenter by trade and something about this match, suggested by her father, seemed perfect.
Then one day Yosef came to her home. He had brought with him the Ketubah, or the marriage contract, which he presented to Miriam and her father. There was the matter of the ‘bride price’ to be paid, a token to be given by Yosef, for raising their daughter as well as being an expression of his love for her. Yosef, like any good Jewish man seemed most willing to pay it, but Hannah refused to hear of this talk; she was a woman ahead of her times and wanted Miriam to be the same. She was proud that her baby had now grown up to be a fine young woman, who among other things feared God. But now, all she could do was reminiscence about the day Miriam was born.
It was on their first visit to the synagogue, after her birth, that Yehoyaqim was given the honour of an alyiah, the opportunity to bless the reading of the Torah in the synagogue. Hannah remembered how proudly he proclaimed the blessing for her health and that of their baby. It was in this tiny synagogue in Nazareth that their baby was named Miriam, a name borne by the sister of Moses in the Old Testament.
On that day, a much younger Elizabeth, their anepsios or kinswoman, sat with her head covered in the balcony, viewing the proceedings behind the mechitza which separated the men from women. Who would have thought that one day this little Miriam would drop everything to be with Elizabeth during her pregnancy? It was this pregnancy that had left most of the Jews in amazement of what God could do kindling the hope for the arrival of a Messiah.
But how time flies, for here was Yosef standing now beside Miriam, waiting for her to say yes to this marriage. Yosef was a man of tradition. He had as tradition dictated poured a cup of wine for his beloved waiting to see if she drank it. If she did then she would have accepted the proposal and they would be betrothed.
Coyly she lifted the cup to her lips; her cheeks flushed as she gently sipped the wine to a rapturous applause in the room. Yosef pulled out the bench he had made as a gift for his beloved and gave it to Miriam. It was the same bench she was sitting on when Gabriel appeared to her, announcing the good news of salvation. Now all Miriam had to do was to wait for Yosef to return and collect her on their wedding day; but Gabriel appeared before that day could come and the rest as they say was our ‘faith-story’
Fr Warner D’Souza
Dedicated to My Blessed Mother Mary, a woman I know so little about but have so much to learn from.
The socio-cultural and architectural elements of this narrative are based on historical research of the first century. The rest is the imagination of my heart and mind.
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