THE HEART OF MARY
LIFE AND TIMES OF THE HOLY FAMILY
"I AM THE FIRST AND THE LAST"
BIRTH OF JESUS
LADY ELIZABET IN NAZARETH
The news of the death of Jacob of Nazareth fell on the house of his in-laws and other relatives in Jerusalem with the force of a cyclops without eye, destroying houses and crops blindly. Cleophas and his wife, Mary's grandparents on her mother’s side, wanted to rush up to Nazareth.
Prudence advised Zechariah and his Saga to keep their distance, to go up later to Nazareth, to leave it for a better occasion, lest by going all together they should arouse suspicion in the court of King Herod. Any one of the king's spies might find it strange that a whole character of the category of the son of Abijah was interested in the fate of a simple peasant of Galilee. And directing the tyrant's attention to the house of Solomon's Daughter was the last thing Zechariah could afford.
“Thou shalt do what thou wilt, O man of God”, with these words Elizabeth closed the discussion with her husband as to whether or not it was advisable to leave Jerusalem at that moment. “You shall do what you will”, Elizabeth repeated to him, "but this daughter of Aaron is running out right now to embrace the child of her soul."
Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah, future mother of John the Baptist, older sister of Anne's mother, and therefore maternal aunt of the Widow was by these coincidences of Life: the great-grandmother of the Virgin.
Like Zechariah, her husband, Elizabeth belonged to the Aaronic caste from among whose houses the members of the Sanhedrin were chosen. By this I do not mean anything except that the education of the future mother of the Baptist did not conform to the education that other Hebrew women usually received. And if we add to this the fact that Elizabeth was predestined from her mother's womb to be the wife of the Baptist's father, I believe that from this position of Providence the gates of time are open to whoever dares to cross them.
For so it is, Elizabeth of Jerusalem, the Virgin's great-grandmother, was the elder sister of the mother of the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth.
And so it was done; Elizabeth ran off to Nazareth in the company of Cleophas and his lady, the parents of Anne, Mary's mother.
Cleophas, the Widow's father, was therefore Elizabeth's brother-in-law.
Cleophas married Elizabeth's younger sister and they had Anne, her niece Anne, her morning star, the star of those eyes that wept so much at the impossibility of not being able to have children.
By the time Elizabeth, Cleophas and the lady arrived in Nazareth, the Virgin's father was already in his tomb. The inhabitants of Nazareth had returned to their daily lives.
The arrival of her parents and her aunt Elizabeth reawakened in the eyes of the Widow that river of tears that now lay dormant as if dead, and that exceptionally came to life again when visitors stopped to console her. She did not know, could not, would not live without her husband.
For the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth her aunt Elizabeth was that person that all children miss in their parents. Parents are honored, but to that other person everything is confessed. It was therefore logical that it was to Aunt Elizabeth that the Widow discovered the event.
As always, after a river of tears.
The House of Abiud, son of Zerubbabel, son of Salathiel, son of Solomon, king and biblical father of the family of the Virgin, was a farmhouse of the Persian stately times. Except for the barns, the entire building was of hewn stone, even the stables.
Where today stands the bunker of the Annunciation, yesterday a mansion half- farmhouse half-fortress was erected: The Storknest.
The main hall of the house had the walls adorned with the oldest and most impressive weapons. There were those of all periods from the Empire of Nebuchadnezzar II to the Empire of the Greeks. Also against one of the walls of the main hall of the house the masons of the time opened a large fireplace, like a cave. By the fire of that chimney sat Aunt Elizabeth and her niece Anne. Cleophas and his wife had taken their grandchildren to bed.
The Widow then started letting flow from her eyes a river of tears. If the walls could talk, they would say that the Widow made a in a while lake to give half of Africa a bottle.
Aunt Elizabeth always found a way to cut those flood waters. Well, Anne was her little sister's daughter, but as if she were the daughter she never had, Elizabeth loved her niece more than if she had been her own daughter. That's putting it mildly. But that thing, of bursting into tears, falling into an eternal silence, bursting out again, that was not normal.
“What's the matter, Annie?” asked Isabel, worried. “Why did you wait for your parents to leave before bursting into tears like that? We are already alone. Come on, tell me”. Elizabeth tried to find out what was wrong with her niece.
The Widow opened her lips. She opened them, yes, but she never managed to string together a complete sentence.
“What's wrong with your Mary, Anne?”
She never finished. With the temper that woman had, and the infinite patience she had with her niece.
“When you calm down, tell me about it, Anne”.
This happened in a very long time.
The stuffed bear that occupied the corner of the main room, had he been alive, he would have despaired by now. Over the fireplace a lion's head native to Assyria yawned expectantly.
Elizabeth was still staring into the fire when the Widow managed to finish the story about her eldest daughter's Vow.
“Repeat that to me, Anne”, marveling, asked Elizabeth.
“You see? I knew you wouldn't believe it”, and the Widow started up again.
At dawn, the Baptist's mother was aware of the event that would change the course of the History of the Universe.
“That yes, Aunt, my Mary will not remove the veil of mourning for her father until she sees my child of months married and well married. What have I done, Lord? And you know how my Mary is; if she were a man her word would be the last thing she would break.”
How well the Widow knew her eldest daughter!
THE HOUSE OF JOSEPH THE CARPENTER
Let us now enter a little into the story of Joseph, the future husband of the Mother of Jesus.
The clan of the carpenters of Bethlehem experienced a very strong economic pull following the birth of Joseph. This is not the place to go into intimate details about the life of Joseph the Carpenter's parents. In due time we will open the door as one who draws a veil and we will see face to face the truth of that intimacy that for now and until then I will leave in the air. The reason for doing so will be understood later. In order to overcome the trance, let us say that too deep an incursion into the life of the parents of Joseph the Carpenter would break the rhythm of this story. So let’s move on.
Heli, Joseph’s father, brought into the world many children, females and males. The man was in the fullness of his joy when one day his strength gave out too, and he died.
Heli died as all things die, from exhaustion. Especially in those days the cause of death of men was that, work. They died of exhaustion. There were the taxes, the tithes, the interest. The workers barely reached their forties healthy; at fifty they were half dead. At sixty they were already dead. Only the rich and the tyrants reached their seventies. Those who reached eighty were either saints or monsters. Heli, Joseph’s father, was neither one nor the other. Just another laborer selling his children's lives against planks and nails. So when he died, Heaven took to its glory another of the good guys.
As we can see, Death was following in the footsteps of his enemies. Having no one to wield the sword against them, Death itself lashed out directly against the two messianic houses. Invisible, silent, it struck with the only weapon at its service: the scissors of the Fate. Blind, Death wrote in the families of its enemies black pages. But from the light of the one who governs the destiny of the universe, God let the Serpent move at ease.
But let us leave the chronicles of Hell and its defeat. Let us put our feet back on solid ground. To remember ruins and miseries there is always time.
After the death of Heli, son of Mattath of Bethlehem, the Birth-right made Joseph a father to his brothers and sisters. This right did not include the duty to remain unmarried until the last member of his household had formed his own family. In fact, marriage to Solomon's Daughter - Mary was by then his Fiancée - drew nearer with each passing year. Joseph must have been about twenty years old when his father went to the Paradise of the good. Mary must have been a few years younger.
It was around that time that Mary's father died also. And so it was that the two men who had vowed to marry their children, they suddenly disappeared from the scene. All their lives they had dreamed of seeing Joseph and Mary married, and overnight a twist of fate stole the dream from their eyes.
Elizabeth was worried: What was to become of the future of the oath that Jacob of Nazareth and Heli of Bethlehem had sworn before her husband, Zechariah, son of Abijah the priest?
The two men who had pledged to unite Joseph and Mary in marriage when age would dictate it, now gone, dead, Mary and Joseph were free to go ahead and take their parents' oath as their own, or not.
What would they do? How would they force Joseph to remain unmarried until the last of Jacob of Nazareth's children married?
Elizabeth knew who forged the personality of Joseph. The words of her husband found an soul in the heart of Joseph’s father, and the echo of the words of Heli, Joseph’s father, met a shrine in Joseph’s mind. He would stick to it.
“My son, be wise before God and his servants. No reward satisfies the human condition more fully than to adjust our steps to his wisdom. We are nothing, when it comes to weighing the decision between doing our pleasure or doing that of our Lord God, we are none. Put your entire trust in his Omniscience, your faith place it in his almighty arm, which never misses the mark. You know his will; do not turn your back on him. I go away, but He remains and stays with you. He will guide you to the victory of our Houses. His angel will write in his Book: God said, and so it was done", Joseph was brought up with advice of this nature.
After the death of Jacob, Mary's father, the Widow reestablished herself. Supported by Aunt Elizabeth the House of the Virgin of Nazareth overcame the ominous storm that in her grief the Widow painted herself during the burial of her husband.
Lady Elizabeth, a member of the aristocratic class of Jerusalem, expert in the world of business and Jewish laws, took charge of everything, moved heaven and earth, and did not leave Nazareth until everything was so solidly restored that it was as if Jacob had never left. Smart as she was, with sufficient financial means to stop Jacob's brothers from offering to buy the land from the Widow, Aunt Elizabeth kept for Solomon's daughter, her great-niece, every acre.
Thanks to Lady Elizabeth, the Widow did not sell a fig tree. Aunt Elizabeth was there to hire men when the harvests came in, to sign contracts, to pay the men, to collect the money from the sales, and most importantly to take her niece Johanna and teach her from A to Z the alphabet of business.
So it happened that Joanna, Mary’s sister, accompanied her big sister in the Vow. But Jane, unlike Maria, an artist with sewing, Jane inherited the whole character of her late father; she did not tire of learning from her Aunt how to handle men nor of making her way in the world of contracts; nor did she tire of working in the fields at the head of the day laborers who worked for her House. Many bet that as soon as the Lady left, the girl would fall apart and sooner or later the Widow would have to sell.
“Daughter, don't pay any attention to them”, Aunt Elizabeth advised her grandniece. “Men look at us as if Wisdom were not our sister. Because they take her for their wife, they think that Wisdom turns her back on us. Don't listen to them. And if the sun should beat down and the harvest should be bad, I will buy it all at the price of a harvest of gold. This is very simple, my daughter. Always keep your word; if you agreed to more for what later turned out to be worth less, you keep your word; you said so much, you pay so much. The same when it is their turn to make a mistake with you. You agreed on so much, you get so much...”
In time the little of the two Virgins of Nazareth learned to talk to the men she hired herself as if she were an old person. Never were the lands of the clan of the sons of David of Nazareth as fruitful as in those years after the great droughts.
Nor were the owners of the Storknest, the big house on the hill of Nazareth, ever better dressed.
Lady Elizabeth, like every daughter of Aaron, was a master in the arts of weaving seamless cloaks. It was the mantle of the members of the Sanhedrin. Mistress of a great one of the Sanhedrin, Elizabeth could assure her grandniece Mary that her sewing shop would be the most profitable in the entire kingdom.
-But Aunt, Mary told her, I cannot leave my mother's house.
-My daughter, don't even mention it - Lady Elizabeth replied.
The fact that, being the Aunt-grandmother, Elizabeth was called Aunt was due to Elizabeth's own genius. It made her feel old to be called “grandmother”.
Well, among her nieces Jane and Mary, time went by for Lady Isabel. If the Lady taught her nice Jane all the mysteries of business and in her name hired a foreman to help her in everything, and she put it in her head that from Jerusalem she would follow her movements up to date, and by God she would anticipate heaven before seeing another misfortune fall on her granddaughters; If she put her great-niece Jane at the head of the fields, she put her "niece" Mary at her side, and did not lift her from her side until her grand-niece had learned from the hands of an expert in sacred work the most hidden secrets of cutting and sewing a seamless suit. The Niece, who was herself an artist, because her own mother gave her the schooling, when she said goodbye to "her Aunt" had not only inherited one of the mysteries most jealously guarded by the daughters of Aaron, but also opened her own sewing workshop in Nazareth.
From the sewing workshop of the Virgin of Nazareth came to Jerusalem some of the seamless cloaks that were the pride of the princely caste of the Holy City. Cloaks for which gold was paid. One had only one, and it was for life.
-But Aunt, where will I get the money for the silks and the gold threads - she once asked her.
-Don't put on the pinion for a cloud, daughter, replied Lady Elizabeth. When I give you the order I will send you silks to dress all your sisters, and a sack of threads to make your brother a braid with silver hair. If the Lord has not given me children, it is for a reason. What do men think they are? Everything for Nathan's son. My daughter, they have given an Iberian horse to your Joseph that a Roman general would want for himself. With him, with your Joseph, they lower their guard and already seems your “Promised One” a prince among beggars. Who will forbid me to give me the daughter of Solomon the moon and the stars wrapped in silks and tied with gold threads?
And so it was. Indeed, how the daughters of Jacob of Nazareth came to be clothed was the admiration of all the members of David's clan of Galilee. When the time came to marry them off, one can already guess the dowry that the Widow wanted for Esther and Ruth, the twins.
-The dowry? Who has spoken here of money? Do you love him, daughter? - was the Widow's answer to her daughters' suitors.
They were wrong, they were wrong indeed. To buy the Widow a daughter?
Best match in the whole county?
The fields of Jacob's Daughter produced one hundred percent. From the workshop of the Virgin of Nazareth came out the most good, beautiful and cheapest clothes in the region. To the child of the house? The Cleophas, the youngest child of the house, only lacked the diadem to put the sons of Herod on a par with the money-grubbers. Therefore, whoever would marry his daughters should not come to the Widow of Jacob talking about money. His heart was what they had to put on the table, wide open, open as a full moon, naked as the sun on the fortieth of May. And then let it be what Heaven would have it be.
Upon the death of her grandparents, Cleophas and Wife, Mary ben Solomon inherited her mother's house in the Holy City. We speak of the house of the heiress of a Doctor of the Law whose bureaucratic career godfather was the head of the most powerful group of influence in the nascent court of King Herod. We speak of the house of Lady Mary of Nazareth, daughter of Anna and Cleophas, brother-in-law to Zechariah, the son of Abijah -the Abtalion for the official historiography-. We speak then of a legitimate member of the Jewish priestly aristocracy on her mother's side.
(In this first part of the History we are not going to enter the life of the house of Cleophas, father of the mother of the Virgin. In the second part we will do, we will ask permission and we will see with the eyes of the spirit what I mean when I say that Cleophas, father of the Widow, belonged to the Jewish aristocratic group that without being Herodian was the most influential before the Court of King Herod. For now it is enough the confidence at the time of articulating on the rock of our Faith the pillars on which rests the building of this History).
Without going any further we see the Lord Jesus in the prologue of the Last Supper sending his disciple to announce his coming to one of his servants. The man does not refuse; and he does not refuse because he knows the messenger, and he knows who is the "lord" who is urging him to have everything ready for the Last Supper.
The legend of Jesus the Carpenter, let us say it all, had its origin in the mentality of the ancient small towns. The local title of the father passed to the son. The father was a carpenter, the son will be the Carpenter all his life, even if he comes to have more bushels than a marquis; his father was the carpenter and his son will be the carpenter's son until he dies.
It is true, let us go on saying it all, that Joseph came to Nazareth following the route of the nomads. The man planted himself in the village, leased a piece of land from the Widow to plant the tent. He set up the workshop. Joseph ended up liking the atmosphere --that's what he said-- and ended up falling in love with the Widow’s heiress. By that time the Virgin was the owner of fig trees, vineyards, olive groves, calm land, cattle, and she was also the owner of a dressmaking and sewing workshop in full boom thanks to the nationalist wave.
Until then the typical costumes had to be ordered in a workshop in Judea. The Jewish women, especially those from Jerusalem, had jealously guarded the secret of making wedding dresses and dresses for national holidays. Then the Virgin of Nazareth went and opened her own dressmaking and sewing workshop.
In the midst of such circumstances the creation of the workshop of the Virgin of Nazareth, the truth, opened its way immediately. Thanks to the blood relations that her family maintained throughout Galilee, the necessary publicity, without her having to give time to it, was spread like wildfire. One only had to look at the way her relatives dressed. Then there was the price; the Virgin of Nazareth was a saint; if you had no money you could pay her when things smiled on you. She adjusted the price to your case and never sent the man in black to demand the money. A true saint. Of course, when her wedding to the Carpenter was announced, everyone's mouth dropped open.
The Virgin is getting married?
The truth is that Joseph and Mary first waited for Cleophas to marry.
JOSEPH THE NOMAD
Of all the children of Nazareth, none liked Joseph as much as Cleophas, Mary’s brothers. But from the very day Joseph came to Nazareth. It is no lie that Joseph made his entrance in Nazareth spectacularly. His Iberian horse black as night and his three lion-hunting Assyrian dogs breaking the monotony genially. Then there was the rider; a giant on his Bucephalus, son of Pegasus, the horse of the super angels; his hair neither long nor short, with the very sword of Goliath at his belt.
And the stranger said that he was a nomad adventuring through the provinces of the kingdom.
The Nazarenes looked at him and could not believe it: a nomad like any other, adventuring along those roads of God on the back of a horse of that race, beautiful as the horse of an archangel in full battle, guarded by three wild beasts, beautiful as cherubs and fearsome as dragons?
That giant was pure mystery. His psychological and physical features did not coincide with the popular image of the nomad without a homeland, always drunk, always quarrelsome, rather skinny, with red wine-colored snouts, his brains burned by the sun and the cold. No sir, that nomad was not just another one. Nomads rode donkeys, or at best, old mares, bedbugs, fleas and mongrels for company. No sir, that Joseph was pure mystery.
Secret or no secret, the thing is that Cleophas, the Virgin's little brother, became so fond of that nomad born in Bethlehem that he ended up living more in the Carpenter's tent than in his own house.
But I know that what that boy was dying for the most was to make his dream of getting on Joseph's horse and trotting through the hills raising stardust in the eyes of his blue princess come true. Boys' stuff!
And this is exactly what happened. All of Cleophas' sisters got married. Except for his two older sisters, Mary and Jane, who had remained virgins since the death of their father. It is the truth, all his sisters had already married, had formed a family and had their children. Cleophas was the only one of the children of Jacob of Nazareth who was still living in his mother's house.
From the outside, to outsiders, Cleophas was the lord of the village, the spoiled child of his sisters. While all the boys were busy helping out in the fields, Cleophas lived like a prince without knowing what working life is. He spent the day in Joseph's carpentry shop, it was not because he needed to earn his bread. Not at all. If he decided to serve him as an apprentice, it was not because the Virgin's brother had to learn a trade. What Cleophas really deprived him was to rise in the Carpenter's eyes, to gain his trust and receive his permission to take the boat, climb on top of that Iberian horse and enjoy the pleasure of seeing the world on the back of that magical creature.
And so it was. Cleophas was already traveling the world from party to party on the back of his boss's marvelous horse. The neighbors of the village were annoyed that the Carpenter gave so much rope to the boy. Such a horse did not lend itself, and even less, as it were, to a child.
Joseph's response to the suspicions of his new neighbors was to lend his apprentice, in addition to his horse, two of "his puppies". Whenever he sent his assistant and apprentice carpenter to a neighboring village, Joseph gave him as traveling companions a pair of his puppies, two endangered dogs once given to him by his Babylonian godparents.
Cleophas began by taking an errand to the neighboring village, on horseback of course. And he ended up having his patron's horse as his own when, on the occasion of a local festival, a grape harvest festival, for example, his married sisters demanded his presence. It was thus that Cleophas met Mary of Canaan, the future mother of his sons, the famous brothers of Jesus.
Cleophas and Mary of Canaan, married, settled in the house of Jacob's Daughter, and had their children.
Let's say it all, the Nomad's Carpentry was not a multinational furniture company nor had the vocation of leader in the sector, but for Cleophas that Joseph was the best. In love, and father of his children, his boss's workshop was all he had, and Cleophas was willing to give his all before he saw it go under. In any case, his boss was a strange man. He was never short of money. Whether he sold or not, the house always won. He didn't beat him over the head with his problems either. He never did. In fact, Joseph's only problem was that he had no mistress. Nor was he known to have a suitor. Not for lack of women. No. It was him, Joseph. He had no wife because God had not given her to him yet. And Joseph said it with the mystery of one who has an unspeakable secret.
-God will give, brother, God will give..., Joseph answered the boy.
Shortly after the birth of Joseph, second among the sons of Cleophas, the Virgin closed the mourning for the death of his father.
The Virgin had won. She had made a Vow and she had fulfilled it. Now she was free to marry; and by marrying she would fulfill the oath that her father made to the Lord and could not fulfill because Death crossed his path.
Before sacred witnesses Jacob of Nazareth swore in his day, on the cradle of his firstborn Mary, legitimate heir of King Solomon, on his life Jacob swore that he would only give his daughter as wife to the son of Heli, son of Rhesa, son of Zerubbabel, son of Nathan, prophet, son of David, king.
Shortly after the birth of the second of Cleophas' sons, Joseph the Carpenter asked the Widow the hand of Mary. The Widow accepted the request, and shortly thereafter the marriage contract documents were signed between Mary, daughter of Jacob, daughter of Matthan, daughter of Abiud, daughter of Zerubbabel, daughter of Solomon, daughter of David, king, and Joseph, son of Heli, son of Rhesa, son of Zerubbabel, son of Nathan, son of David, prophet.
The news of the marriage of Joseph the Carpenter and Mary the Virgin swept through Nazareth.
-The Virgin marries.
-With the Carpenter? I knew it.
An exceptional match the bride. Owner of the house on the hill, owner of the best land in the county, founder of the Nazareth tailor and seamstress shop that sold the best, most beautiful and cheapest wedding dresses in the region.
Who was the groom? A nobody from Bethlehem, an adventurous nomad who had found what he was looking for. Who would have thought that where so many good matches failed, an outsider without a cause would succeed!
So, if on her Mother's side our Jesus was the heir of Cleophas of Jerusalem, Doctor of the Law, his grandfather, and on Mother's side also all the properties of his grandfather Jacob of Nazareth belonged to him, then we are talking about a rich young man named Jesus of Nazareth. Or do you think that whoever asked the rich young man to leave everything and follow him did not himself make this act of renunciation and abandonment of all his properties?
Son of his parents, during his mandate our Jesus raised the economy of his family to its maximum splendor of comfort and prosperity. During the days that he was at the head of his Mother's House the cellars were filled with excellent wines, the storehouses overflowed with wheat, oil, table olives, figs, pomegranates, milk, meat, and fish that were brought to him from the Sea of Galilee to his house, when our Jesus did not go to fetch him personally. The wines from the vineyards of Jesus of Nazareth were sold all over Galilee; little but excellent, the best. It made you happy and never made you violent, the day after you woke up with a clear head and a joyful heart. It came from Jesus of Nazareth, came from Bacchus, said the Romans of the garrison of Sepphoris, two hours away.
His Mother's great-great-grandparents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, had also bequeathed him property on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
The rightful heir of Zechariah and Elizabeth was John, as everyone knows. Before John the Baptist was born, as they no longer expected to have a son, Elizabeth and Zechariah bequeathed everything they had to Mary’s mother. This will was never revoked due to the violent death of Zechariah and the disappearance of Elizabeth and John in the caves of the Dead Sea.
So in the Jerusalem of the money the Young Nazarene was known as a mystery is known. In reality, no one knew who he was. What everyone seemed to agree on was that he was Jesus of Nazareth, the son of the Lady Mary, he was a young man of prudence and wisdom beyond the normal stature of a man of his youth. He handled money, but he was not interested in power. He was accustomed to command and be served, and yet he was still unmarried. He was cultured, he spoke the languages of the empire, do you think they gave him an interpreter to talk to Pilate? He knew how to write, he had a genius for business. His mother was the weak point of the Young Nazarene, but who is not forgiven for this?
WEDDING AND BIRTH OF THE CHILD
Mary and Joseph became engaged. The general rule was that the father of the groom would go and talk to the parents of the bride about his son's desire to marry the bride. They would discuss the dowry and close the deal. In Joseph's case it was Joseph himself who spoke with the bride's mother and asked her for his daughter as his wife. The bride's mother accepted and they signed the wedding contract.
In those days tradition imposed a year of courtship from the signing of the contract until the wedding day. After one year they could get married. During the year of courtship however the bride and groom were bound by the law on adultery. It was the norm, but by no means sacred law. Moses had not given any precept concerning the prohibition to marry immediately after the marriage contract was signed. It had been the Jews themselves who had imposed on themselves that year of waiting. It is not known if blaming God for having been so soft, the thing is that not content with the mountain of laws that he dictated to them, they threw on their backs another mountain of prescriptions, laws, traditions, mandates, canonical norms and who knows how many other obligations. So, since it was not a real law, nobody would be afraid of having to speed up the procedures due to the weakness of the flesh. The child was born seven months premature. But well, it's not to make a fuss either. Doesn't a proper wedding cure sin? Of course it does.
The negative side was that without being a law, the weakness of the flesh could be paid with death if the sin had not been committed by the groom. In this case the full weight of the law on adultery fell on the bride. Judged as an adulteress she paid for her weakness with the penalty of death, usually by stoning.
For many other reasons a marriage contract could be broken. It was not common, but there were cases. Incompatibility of characters, for example. The money was returned and everyone went home.
In the most general case, pregnancy during the year of waiting, the blood did not reach the river. They are young, but the grandchild is welcome! Wedding banquet, celebration, the child was born seven months premature. So what? Blessed be the Lord. What began well, ended well, that's what matters.
The case of the Virgin was of a different nature. “One day”, she confessed to the Apostles, “the angel of God appeared to her, and the next day she was already in a state of grace”. The Apostles told it to their successors, who told it to their successors, and the Confession of the Virgin continues to be told by word of mouth.
To conceive by the work and grace of the Holy Spirit is said very soon.
“I am in a state by the work and grace of the Holy Spirit”, Our Lady had to confess to herself one of those days.
No one will believe that Our Lady ran out of joy shouting the Annunciation History to the whole world. It is not something that happens every day. In fact, in the entire history of mankind, no such phenomenon had ever taken place. The closest case to a supernatural conception of nature that the Gospels tell us about is found in the world of mythology.
Without going any further, Alexander the Great's own mother confessed that she had her son with one of the gods of the classical world to which she belonged. Whether out of respect for his mother or pride her son kept his semi-divine origin. As far as I remember, this is the most similar case to the one that the Virgin put on the table of the centuries.
Well, why not? The God of the Hebrews had performed many extraordinary works from the days of Moses to the present. Their Scriptures spoke of the Conception of a Child born of a Virgin. As an example of fantasy carried to its highest extreme of imagination and genius, that the God who created the Heavens and the Earth could perform a work of that nature was on a par with the conception of his Nature by the children of Adam and Eve. Why should not One of the Attributes granted to the God of Moses - all-power, omnipotence, omniscience - be able to stage an Event so impossible to believe?
Now, Mary, run, and explain it to someone. Run, find your husband and tell him that you are the Virgin who was to conceive a Son “born to carry on his shoulders the mantle of Sovereignty, to be called Wonderful Prince, Mighty God, Everlasting Father”.
Holy God, what luck!
And now sit down to wait and trust that your husband will say “Alleluia, Amen, Alleluia”, jump for joy, lift you up in his arms and kiss your eyes.
You don't have enough yet? Well then, go and tell your soul sister, your sister Johanna loves you more than the Jordan River, more than the Sea of Miracles, more than the Mountains of Judah. Go on, Mary, go, run and tell her.
I say this because - regardless of everyone’s opinion - the weeks went by and what was bound to happen, happened. Our Lady began to have strange dizziness. Was it the heat? No, woman, they were the typical symptoms of pregnant women.
Of any other woman in the world, her neighbors might have expected that a man like a castle, as in the case of Joseph the Carpenter, would have conquered the bride's fortress of virtue before the wedding. Of any other woman, of course, yes, but of the Virgin Mary it would not even fit in the heads of her neighbors.
The fact is that whether it fit or not, they had to surrender to the evidence.
“May the Lord give you a healthy child”, with these and other similar words the neighbors congratulated the groom, and Joseph did not know what the hint was about. The truth is that he did not take it. The man thought that he was being blessed ahead of time.
“May it be a boy, and may the Lord give him to you in good health”, the neighbors kept on prodding him
In fact, a few weeks after the Annunciation, the bride began to show the classic symptoms of first-time mothers. Dizzy spells, silly hot flashes. Since they were something that could not be controlled, Our Lady could not help but be surprised. However, the last thing she could do was to shut herself away, to hide. She had to go on with her life; going on with her life was the best way to neither affirm nor deny her neighbors a word. At least as long as she did not decide to tell her mother the truth.
The Virgin's mother was also slow to pick up the film. She was, with the exception of Joseph, the last person to learn of the rumor that was beginning to scandalize her neighbors.
In the Widow's eyes her daughter's immaculate chastity remained as inaccessible to human passions as it was before she became engaged. Except for the bridegroom's freer access to the bride's house, and this freedom conditioned on the necessary presence of a relative of the bride between her and the bridegroom, her daughter Mary had continued to lead her life as it was, that life which had earned the Virgin of Nazareth her fame from one end of the Galilee to the other. How could she suspect anything wrong with her daughter then!
“May the Lord give you the most beautiful grandchild in the world”, her neighbors prodded the Widow.
“Your Mary deserves everything; may the child go forth to his grandfather Jacob may he be in glory”, in case the Widow had not heard they kept prodding her.
The Widow was from Jerusalem, she had grown up in another environment. But she was no fool. Had it not been about her daughter, the Widow would have bet an arm and a leg that the Virgin was so many weeks pregnant. The problem was that the idea of her Mary being pregnant did not enter her mind.
The Widow's faith and trust in her eldest daughter were so great that her eyes were blinded. Thank God the Widow's blindfold fell off before Joseph's did. Finally, the Widow had to admit it even though her daughter neither affirmed nor denied it to her.
“What is the matter, my daughter?” she would ask him.
“Nothing. It's the heat, mother” the daughter would reply.
The Widow's dilemma began when the neighbors started talking about big words, adultery, for example. They didn't say it to her face, but between women and neighbors, you know, words are superfluous. So the Widow began to panic.
“My Mary is in a state of grace, how is it possible?”bthe Widow ended up confessing.
And her daughter of the soul without affirming or denying it to her. Desperate because of her daughter's silence, she went to her son-in-law to ask him to answer her this simple question: Should the wedding date be accelerated?
And so she did, the Widow went to "her son" Joseph. Bringing Joseph into the issue was going to cost the Widow a lot. Not knowing what scenario she was in or what her role in the story was the Widow told herself that she had to bring Joseph into the issue without uncovering the crux of the problem for him. A very strange thing to do. The problem was to take him without leaving the periphery of the subject. Clever as she was, without telling him, she would tell him in every word what was there, his wife was pregnant, what did he, the groom, have to say?
After a long time of prowling around the subject, the Widow realized that either Joseph was playing the fool, or Joseph simply didn't know anything about anything, and didn't understand what his mother-in-law was talking about.
Joseph looked at her with a naturalness so innocent of any guilt that the Widow began not to know where she was. For a moment she felt as if the earth was opening up under her feet and she didn't know what was better, to fight or to let herself be swallowed. Even his soul was shivering with cold under the effect of the trembling that was getting into his bones as the truth became more and more enormous in weight. Her son-in-law knew nothing about anything and all she knew was that she had to get out of that hell, she had to talk to her daughter and get her to tell her for God's sake what was going on.
What was going on?
Something unbelievable to believe had happened, something impossible to tell. Entire generations and centuries would be divided in two as the flow of a sea that finds in its bed a gigantic cornerstone. And her daughter could not find a way to tell her the Event of the Annunciation.
Mary could not find the moment. Well, a moment, what is called a moment, was offered to her. Her mother and she used to sit together to sew. During that time they talked and talked. They talked about everything. Or they simply remained silent.
In this new silence that had settled between mother and daughter during the last few days, two hearts were about to burst into pieces. The mother wanted to ask her daughter, "Are you pregnant, my daughter" and could not find the way. The daughter wanted to give her a "Yes, my mother", a wonderful, Divine Yes, and she could not find how.
The fact is that the Child was growing in her womb, that the evidence of her condition was growing bigger every day, that if Joseph found out through the mouths of the neighbors... She did not even want to think about it.
He needed to reveal the truth to his mother. His mother was the only person in the world he could trust with such a great Mystery. She had to do it, but since she couldn't figure out how, she never knew when.
So it happened that the mother and daughter sat opposite each other one of those days. The two women knew that the time had come, that this was the moment. The first to speak was the Virgin.
“Mother, do you believe that God can do everything?” she exhaled tenderly.
“Daughter” sighed the Widow, who only wanted to go straight to the question: are you pregnant, my daughter, and it did not come out.
“I know, mother. You will say to me: God is our Lord, how shall we measure the strength of his Arm? And I am, my mother, the first to repeat your words. But I mean, does His Power end where the limits of our imagination begin, or is it precisely on the other side where His Glory begins”
“What do you want to tell me, Mary, I don't understand you”, caught in a different direction from the one she was dying to undertake the mother of the Virgin articulated as best she could.
“I don't know very well either how to get where I want to go or what I want to say. Bear with me, Mother. After here we go to Heaven and from up there the things of Earth do not affect us; so what we have to do is to try to discover the nature of the God who called us to dream of Heaven while we are still here on Earth. Isn't it true that God can turn stones into children of Abraham? But what I wonder is whether by speaking in this way what the prophet meant to imply is that our heads are as hard as a stone. Can a stone know God? Between a man who does not want to know God and a stone, what is the difference?”
“Where do you want to take me, Mary?”, the Widow, as best she could, endured her impatience.
“To a wonderful place, mother. But as I don't know the way don't be angry with me if I explore alone like those mountaineers who face the virgin wall for the first time. The only thing that can happen to me is that I may fall at the feet of your skirt pierced by my ignorance.”
“Don't say that, Mary. You are not alone, although old I follow you. Yes, Mary, I know that God's glory begins where man's imagination ends. Go on”.
The Virgin then broke off in a seemingly even more contrary direction, saying:
“Mother, what did the messenger tell you about my grandfather Zechariah? Why did he not want to tell me yet? Why did he not send me to my grandmother Elizabeth's house? Now that you can, answer me: can our God make old men give birth, or not?”
The Widow and Joseph had not yet wanted to discover to Mary the nature of the message that Zechariah and Elizabeth had recently sent them; in fact, the Widow had decided to send Mary to them. The question of the state of grace in which her daughter had suddenly found herself had blotted everything else out of her mind.
Indeed, the messenger that Zechariah and Elizabeth sent to Nazareth described to the Widow and her son-in-law, detail by detail, what had happened to Zechariah in the Temple. Especially the image of the beautiful angel who punished Zechariah's lack of faith by taking away his speech.
Lord! his daughter Mary was describing that angel to him as if she herself had seen it with her own eyes. How was it possible?
In principle, it was impossible. Elizabeth and Zechariah's messenger did not speak to her while she was in Nazareth. Of course, Joseph could have told her.
Joseph had told her? Joseph gave his word that he would not be the one to break the news to his daughter. Joseph's word, the Widow knew, was pure and clean as gold. He would never break it. No, Joseph hadn't told her anything yet either.
She was wondering how her daughter had found out when her heart went out to the memory of the day her daughter took the Vow of Virginity.
There, in those days, the Widow wondered why the favor of the Lord upon her house had been extinguished, why she had turned her back upon them as one who abandons the spoils to the enemy. In the secret of her heart the Widow was caught in the nets of Job's Dilemma. But unlike the saint she did not find the answer right away. Nor did she find it in the years that had passed from her husband's death to the present day.
The time had come to know the reason why the Lord then took her husband away. Amazed, absorbed, out of this world, floating her being on the same waves that one day became hills under the feet of the Spirit of God, the Widow continued to look at her daughter with her eyes fixed on her words.
Then Our Lady changed the subject again.
“Mother”, she said, “did not God swear that a son of Eve would crush the head of the Serpent?”
“That's right”, the Widow answered her, her speech lost somewhere in the infinity in which her gaze had become trapped.
“And do not our sacred books also say that of all the men who have ever existed on the face of the world there was never born one so great as Adam?”
“So my father taught it to me, and so yours taught it to you. I hear you, Mary”
Mary went on:
“When God promised us the Birth of a Son born to bear upon His shoulders the Sovereignty was He not thinking of the Champion who was to raise us up to deliver us from the empire of Darkness?”
“Yes, He did”
“But if the Evil One once defeated the greatest man the world has ever known, was not the holy Job right in presenting to us the murderer of our father Adam before the Throne of the Almighty all at ease while he waited for the next?”
“Yes he was”
“Of course he was. Whoever defeated the greatest man in the world why shouldn't he defeat his son?”
Mary lowered her eyes and breathed as she strung needle and thread. Her mother remained looking at her without saying a word. After a while she returned to the battlefield.
“So, mother, you tell me, did God swear falsely? I mean, who was the Lord thinking of when He swore that blessed oath? David was not yet born; neither was our father Abraham. With his little son dead, our father Adam at his almighty feet bleeding to death, what Champion was our God thinking of when He promised us under an everlasting oath that a son of that Eve would crush the head of the Evil One?”
This time she who glared at her mother. The latter, seeing her daughter's face, knew only one thing, that her daughter was pregnant. The gentleness in her face, the tenderness in her speech, the sparkle in her eyes. She had only to tell her: Mother, I am in a state of grace; and instead of going to the point, without even knowing how her daughter had taken her to the top of a mountain from where the future of the world could be seen according to the woman born to be the Mother of the Messiah, that son of the Promise who was to be born to crush the head of the Evil One.
“Who was God thinking of on the day that on the blood of his son Adam he swore the Birth of the Champion by whose hand he would take Vengeance?” repeated the Widow. “My daughter, I will not be the one to set limits to the glory of my Creator. I only want you to tell me"
“Do you remember, Mother, what the prophet wrote: A Virgin will give birth and her Son will be called God with us”
Mary looked down again. At that she raised her head and looked her mother straight in the eye.
“Mother, that Virgin, you have her before you. That Child is in my womb” she confessed.
While her daughter revealed to her the episode of the Annunciation, the Widow looked at her daughter with the vision of one who is contemplating the Heart of God on the day of the murder of her son Adam.
At the end, inspired by the great love she had for her daughter, the Widow poured out her blessings:
“Blessed be God, who has chosen my husband's daughter to bring us His salvation to all the families of the earth. His Omniscience shines like an inaccessible sun, which, however, everyone thinks they can reach with their fingertips. He squeezes, but does not suffocate; he strikes, but does not sink those he loves. Blessed is His Chosen One, whom He has formed from the wombs of His fathers to give us His Savior to all the peoples of the earth”. And immediately he said to his daughter thus: "Blessed shall all the families of the earth be in your innocence, my daughter. But now, Mary, you shall do as I tell you. You shall do this, this and this”
The next problem was Joseph. Joseph would be taken care of by her, the Widow. What the Mother of the Messiah had to do was to leave immediately on a journey and remain in the house of Elizabeth and Zacharias until the Lord so ordered. And so she did.
And so it was done. Once Our Lady was gone the Widow seized her son-in-law and told him point by point the whole truth. She did not tell her son-in-law the Annunciation as one who has to hide something and lowers her head in shame. Not at all. Obviously yes with the humility and certainty of the person who knows that the Event would cause Joseph an anguishing dilemma, over which he would have to triumph, and would triumph, but through whose hell he would irremediably have to pass.
And triumph he did.
Nevertheless, as you can imagine, after the Annunciation, Joseph spent some time quite a bit of time in a daze. What had gone wrong at the last minute? How could a woman of Mary's moral class and fortitude have allowed herself to be deceived by...?
By whom? Without anyone pretending it She was under surveillance all day long. When she was not with her mother she was with her nephews, when she was not in the workshop with her workers she was with the family of her father's brothers. The Lord had erected around her a web of relationships so engrossing that the very idea of adultery was an offense.
Then there was She, Mary. She was in flesh and blood the best defense God had sought for the Mother of His Son.
-She said it and we did not believe it: A Virgin will conceive and give birth to a Child, saying this Joseph saw the light and ran away. He returned to his wife, the wedding took place and everyone forgot about the incident.
A memory, however, did remain. I say this because of that other incident between Jesus and the Pharisees.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were tired of hearing that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of David. Since they did not know how to get their hands on him, they looked into his past. They put their finger in the wound and discovered that strange incident of the disappearance of his Mother during the first months of her pregnancy, and how Joseph went in person to look for her... to ....
-Ahhhh, here is his Achilles’ heel.
With this secret weapon hidden up their sleeve the Pharisees led Jesus to the subject of the primogenitures, unigenitures. Then one of them pulled out the manual of low blows and dropped the bombshell.
-Our father is Abraham, who is yours?
Jesus' consuming zeal for his Mother went to his head.
-You are children of the Devil, he replied with the force of a hurricane compressed in his throat.
Only another time, only another time they would not want to remember, would they see the Virgin's son shooting rays from his eyes. And he would never stop, he would never stop until his anger was satiated to the last atom of rage.