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Mary Speaks

Mary and Jesus and my reflection

One of the choirs at Aidan’s high school sang a song called Mary Speaks. It was originally a poem written by Madeleine L’Engle. The music was written by Daniel E. Gawthorp.

I’ve been thinking about the words I heard that night, sung by teenaged girls in blue gowns for school credit.

O you who bear the pain of the whole earth,
I bore you.
You, who, when your hem is touched, give power,
I nourished you.
Who turns the day to night in this dark hour,
Light comes from you.
O you who hold the world in your embrace,
I carried you.
Whose arm encircled the world with your grace,
I once held you.
O you who laughed and ate and walked the shore,
I played with you.
And I, who with all others, you died for,
Now I hold you.
May I be faithful to this final test:
In this last time I hold my child, my son,
His body close enfolded to my breast,
The holder held: the bearer borne.
Mourning to joy: darkness to morn.
Open, my arms: your work is done.

– Madeleine L’Engle

When she agreed to be the mother of Jesus, she agreed to all of the daily demands of caring for a child. He wasn’t born potty trained or able to slice bread, yet as she did those things for her son, she was serving all of us who were to come. Jesus didn’t need Mary to be a tender mother. Angels could have cared for him. He could have manifested himself as an adult, out of the blue.

But it wasn’t that way. For some reason, mother and child and everything that relationship brings to mind needed to happen. As a mother, I marvel at the thought of her nourishing and playing with Jesus knowing what was going to happen. Madeleine L’Engle put words into Mary’s mouth, and they are beautiful. But what did Mary say when she truly spoke?

46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

Luke 1:46-55

She also said:

Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

I wonder what she did next.

Merry Christmas, friends.

8 comments to Mary Speaks

  • Thanks for writing about Mary. I think she sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. As a Catholic she informs a lot of my faith tradition. My efforts to understand her better or learn more from her are often stunted and backtracking and small, but I know at my core that she has so much to teach me as she lead us all to her Son. Merry Christmas Gretchen! It has been a joy to read your words and get to “know” you better this year.

  • Amy

    What a beautiful poem and post to go with it. I find that it is much easier to think about Jesus and what he might have thought about leaving heaven and taking on human flesh for us. I rarely consider Mary and what it was like for her to agree to give birth to and then raise the Son of God. She was a mother just like us. And to think she was probably only 14 or 15 at the time…

    Have a wonderful Christmas, Gretchen!

  • That poem made me a little teary-eyed. Maybe it’s because I have a baby boy (okay, a rambunctious 2 1/2 yo boy) but I’ve really been stricken lately with the wonder of the birth story. “Mary, Did You Know?” and all that.

  • amy

    Sounds like you’re wondering what you will do next?

  • I love this post, Gretchen. Just love it.

  • edj

    I love that poem! I was thrilled when someone set it to music. Isn’t it lovely?
    I often think about Mary this time of year. I think that the angel appeared and she said yes, but she had no idea what she had said yes to. I think that things didn’t look at all like she expected them to, labouring in a stable, losing him in a crowd, watching him mocked and beaten and crucified. But she didn’t give up. She carried on. Blessed, indeed!

  • Gosh, this year, for me, brought a lot of thoughts about Mary. Her faith in the Lord, during such a tumultuous and scary time. What an excellent example of faith she was.

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