In honor of Mother’s Day, the next few weeks will be reflections from the perspective of some historical mothers mentioned in the Bible. Beginning with the mother of our Lord seems appropriate, does it not?
We had to wait in line to speak with a priest. Even in the courtyard overshadowed by the brass altar, the press of people made it impossible to relax and focus on the purpose of our visit. How did people worship in the midst of this human maelstrom? I tried to quiet my mind and pray, but the loud prayers of the priest nearby made it impossible to think.
Jesus squirmed against my breast. Surely he wasn’t hungry. If he needed to be changed – I glanced in all directions – I didn’t know where I could accomplish the task. Certainly nowhere clean or private.
A prayer sprung to my lips. “Yahweh, please keep the baby from needing to be fed or changed until we are finished here.”
It probably wasn’t the holiest prayer of my life, but I hoped God would answer favorably anyway.
I reached to the knot of fabric tied in the middle of my lower back and loosened it enough to move the restless baby into my arms. My gaze caught an older man across the courtyard staring at me. In this crush he thought my baby was too loud?
“What is it?” Joseph leaned his face close to mine to be heard above the chorus of men who had begun praying.
“I’m not sure.”
I shook my head. I had fed him less than two hours ago while we sipped water and ate the bread and meat supplied by the innkeeper.
“Here,” a man said, stopping in front of me.
Both Joseph and I looked up at him. It was the man who had been staring!
He was much older than my father. A phylactery in the center of his forehead marked him as a zealot. Long gray hair lay in thick ringlets over his shoulders, and his beard hung to mid-chest – more marks of his piousness. His hands, smoother than Joseph’s, stretched toward Jesus.
“Who are you?” Joseph angled his body to block the man.
“Simeon,” the man said. “The Lord promised I would see His Christ today. I have come to bless him.”
A bubble rose in my gullet. Why was this man making a scene? Too many people would notice.
“May I bless your son?” the man asked. His eyes grazed Joseph’s face and settled on me. Was he truly asking my permission? How odd.
My eyes flew to Joseph’s face. He frowned, stepping aside so the man could reach toward us. His broad back coupled with Simeon’s much narrower frame formed a sort of quiet triangle amid the storm of people.
I glanced at Jesus, noticing he had quieted. He faced the old man, eyes unblinking. I tucked the cloth around him so it wouldn’t drag the ground when it fell from my waist and held him toward Simeon.
The man’s features seemed to glow, as if lit from within. His countenance reminded me vaguely of the messenger all those months ago.
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.” The cadence of his words reminded me of Father’s bedtime prayers. “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” He stared at the babe. “Which thou has prepared before the face of all people: a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”
His words stunned me. As he spoke, the noise around us seemed to still. When he finished, he fixed tear-filled eyes on me and my breath caught in my throat.
One of his hands rested on my son’s forehead and the other cradled him. “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel: and for a sign which shall be spoken against.”
Simeon raised his hand off Jesus’ head and stepped closer to me. When he placed his palm on top of my head, heat radiated through the shawl covering my hair. Still, a chill slid down my spine. What was happening?
“Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
At his words, my heart leapt in my chest as it had when Elisabeth spoke her prophecy to me. I couldn’t seem to get enough air. Joseph’s arm rested against my shoulders, and I leaned into him, wondering at my trembling legs.
An ancient woman several steps away raised her hands and shouted, “Praise the Lord God of Israel for His salvation.”
Every hair on my body stood at attention. People stopped talking and looked toward the old woman whose hands remained uplifted.
After that, the prayer of the priest and the offering of the two doves seemed to blur into one continuous moment. My heart was full of dread at the man’s words. Before the birds were pierced and burnt, I prayed for repentance and cleansing.
The old man’s words, “A sword shall pierce through thy own soul,” replayed in my mind. A knot tightened in my chest.
The old woman touched my shoulder as we shuffled away from the altar and toward the exit.
“Look for redemption,” she said, her eyes full of tears and her lips trembling into a smile. “God’s redemption has come to Jerusalem.”
“Bless you, Mother,” Joseph said to the old woman, pressing a copper coin into her hand.
Her eyes strayed to Jesus, swaddled in my arms, still gawking around as if absorbing the entire scene.
“Praise the Lord,” she repeated, raising her hands to the sky. Jesus swung his gaze her direction; his eyes met hers. The old woman began to weep.
Looking for more from this perspective? Purchase Reflections from a Pondering Heart at your favorite online retailers.