Historical setting: 6th Century C.E. Somewhere in the Pyrenees
Nic and I carried the statue of the mother and child into the adjacent ox shed and away from the pagan statuary so we could have a better look at the work. My thought, this would make a wonderful gift to bring with us to the monastery of Ligugé where we will be seeking our callings. Nic worries about paying a pagan price for Christian art, and anyway how would we carry it?
But here we find ourselves in an ox shed on the Eve of the Christ Mass when the whole Christian universe is hearing this same story from Luke 2. The song of Hannah becomes the lyric of Mary to turn the world upside-down, to lift up the poor and send the pompous power mongers meekly groveling in the streets. Will this kind of justice ever be so? Is the Jesus love intended for the whole world, or just for one heart at a time?
I knew nothing of that birth. I don’t know if Luke was just spinning a story to speak of the simplicity of holy justice. I can’t verify the tangible details of manger and angels. The truth of it, I can verify. Undoubtedly the gospel writer crafted it from tender metaphor of barn animals and wet and messy human birth in order to tell the universal truth of a simple and just God. This God is a mother’s love that cannot be shaken by any acts of her beloved Creation. It would be hard to offer up a story of the Creator of the wholeness that is love, life and spirit, the unspeakable unnamed God, without using the simple metaphor of a mother and a child. And I do know Jesus was born, somewhere, some way and lived as a child who learned a trade in order to create things with his own hands. And in my strange circumstance of life I did also know his mother. She was Jewish. Her riches were her children and her faith. Well, faith is not a thing one keeps as a treasure. It is said to be more like a song; it lives as it is sung, and when it is not being sung it doesn’t exist. [footnote] But Mary, his mother was always singing.
We, Nic, the ox and I, are together here in the silence of our prayers for however long. The ox was at first, standing. When we came into its place the ox stepped back in apprehension of a huge load of stone it would need to drag somewhere. It was accompanied by these two human intruders who are us. Now the ox has folded his knees with us for his own peaceful night’s rest.
… and to all a good night.
footnote – Pastor, the Reverend Doctor Kelly Brill of Avon Lake U.C.C., spoke this beautiful metaphor for faith like a song in a message on Matthew 14. She said she is not the first to use that metaphor which makes faith nearly into a verb, and not a thing one can keep and own. Thanks Pastor Kelly.
(Continues Tuesday, December 29)