When Mary Walked The Earth, part 2, by Daniel A. Lord, S.J


“Madam,” he said, “I came-” and stopped, not knowing why he felt himself going down upon his knees, while all about him was an air that was not of earth. It was as if a breath of heaven had blown through that room, a breath of God’s great spirit dashing away the cobwebs that were doubts, the dusty shadows that were unbelief-as if angels had stooped down and filled the room with supernatural perfume. And all the while the woman stood silently waiting for him to speak.
“Madam,” he said, looking up at those eyes in which there still seemed a reflection of some heavenly vision, “my business with your husband can wait. But,” he hurried on, “may I tell you, lady, that the Sadducee, for all his wisdom, is a fool?” He was talking to her, he suddenly realised, as if she knew of the Sadducee and his doubts and the clear, brutal arguments by which the Sadducee had slain his faith.
“Madam, there is a God who bends above his people; there is a supernatural that fills our very soul; there is an immortality and I shall live forever; and the Messiah will come to Israel.”
As the last glimmer of the glory seemed to fade from the room, Benjamin felt it dawning with radiant splendour in his own soul.


A Discontented Mother Learns Mother Love from the Mother of Christ

In the doorway of her house the little Egyptian mother sat and rocked her baby. The hot sun beat upon the white walls of the houses opposite and made the baby squint painfully; but in the shadow of the doorway it was almost cool except when the hot wind blew down the narrow street and brought with it a fierce blast from the desert.
The little mother leaned her head back against the doorjamb, weary and bored. Her rich olive skin, her wide, black, languid eyes, the softness of her parted lips, her listless weariness-all made her seem so very young. And when she lifted the heavy baby, it was with a strained effort. He was a heavy burden for her unaccustomed, slender arms
Down the street came the rattle of gay laughter, and the mother sat up expectantly. Her free hand arranged in quick repair the loosened hair that dangled against her cheek and the scarf that had been blowing loosely about her neck, as around the corner ran three girls, scarcely younger than herself, but flashing their white teeth and brilliant eyes in eager merriment.
As they reached the mother sitting in the doorway they stopped. The child in her arms, frightened at the sudden rush of strangers, set up a wail of terror, and the mother, hardly realising what she did, slapped him impulsively and looked up enviously at the three girls in their holiday dress.


“Come!” they cried, holding out their hands. “We dance this afternoon in the festival of Isis. Such flowers as fill the temple groves! Such bowls of red wine! Such throngs of people filling the temple! Such mad preparation for the procession!”
The mother, her mind whirling with a picture of gay festivals in the temple, listened eagerly, but again the baby in her arms wailed distressfully and she leaned back against the door jamb and shook her head.
“How can I?” she asked, her lips curling in contemptuous self pity. “Can one dance with a baby in one’s arms? The wail of a crying child is not the music to which one can time one’s steps. Go, have your fun; I stay, held by these gripping fists to my doorway.”
The girls hesitated a moment and then ran off, breathlessly eager for the festival in the temple of their goddess.
Into her lap the mother dropped her baby. With closed eyes she leaned back, heedless of the child who sobbed and kicked upon her knees, and dreamed as women have so often dreamed since girls first became mothers. She saw the bright procession winding through the mysterious columns of the temple, the white flying feet of the dancers, the bright gold of the tripods surmounted with a thin silver cloud of incense, the grave expression of the drummers and the uptilted line of trumpets, the flowers flung into the air, the frank admiration in the faces of the watching throng-all that she had loved until this child others had come to rob her of her youth and of her youth’s gaiety.


She almost hated the squalling baby, hated his cries, the vigorous protest of his kicks, his impertinent little fists that sometimes struck her in their wild flaying. He had cost her all that gaiety and joy and life.
Between her closed eyes and the glare of the white wall opposite she felt the coming of a shadow. Frightened, she looked up and saw standing before her a couple, the man, dignified and old, the woman just about her own age. Jews, she thought, and strangers. Then she noticed in the arms of the woman a sleeping baby not much older than her own.
The young Jewess, however, was not looking at her; she was looking at the babe squalling and protesting upon his mother’s knee.
Ashamed, the Egyptian mother bent down and lifted the child against her heart.
“Hush,” she hissed. “Hush, or the demons of the Nile will come to seize you!”
The venom of her tone worked the baby to new power of terror and grief, and his little body trembled with the storm that shook him. Suddenly the Jewish mother stooped forward and without a word laid her own sleeping child upon the knees of the Egyptian mother and took the wailing baby in her arms and laid it against her breast. She stood for a moment while the child, astonished at this transfer, held back his choked tears and throbbed with the suppressed rhythm of his sobs.
Then the Jewess sat in the doorway and leaned back against the opposite side and, rocking to and fro, broke into a soft lullaby. Back and forth her lithe young body swayed, as rhythmically graceful as that of the most skilled dancer, and her voice, low and infinitely tender, timed the lullaby to the rhythm of her movement.


“The baby in her arms regarded her with wide, speculative eyes. Then, as with the corner of her veil she wiped away the tears that glistened unheeded on his face, he smiled and cooed contentedly and settled down against her breast to sleep. And all the while, on the knees of the Egyptian woman, the Jewish baby slept, quietly, trustfully.
Gracefully the Jewish mother rose and held out to the Egyptian her now peacefully sleeping baby. The mother stretched out her arms as once more they exchanged children.
“Come, Mary,” said the dignified man quietly. “We must reach the next village before the day is at its full. The heat would be hard on little Jesus.”
The Jewish mother turned, her own baby sleeping against her shoulder, and with a last smile at the little Egyptian mother walked at the side of her husband down the dusty street.
But in the doorway the graceful body of the little Egyptian mother was swaying to and fro in a rhythm far more beautiful than any it had marked in temple processions, and her voice was singing a lullaby more sweetly than ever she had sung the hymns of Isis, and the newly awakened love was making tight the arms that clasped her sleeping child against her heart.


The Stranger Sees the King’s Daughter and Hopes Again

A stranger in Nazareth walked dazed and unseeing through the heavy dust of the village road, among the tangle of goats and cartwheels, until he reached the village well. He was thirsty, so thirsty that his throat seemed cracked with the same dust that covered his sandaled feet and his bare, leather-strapped legs and stained his cloak with gray patches.
Yet he flung himself down at the well with a hopeless relaxation of body and made no move to draw water to quench that hot, throbbing thirst. When a man was going to die in a few moments, did it matter whether he died thirsty or refreshed with cool water?
His hand tightened reassuringly over the short Damascus sword that hung at his belt. There lay the one sure way to cure thirst-thirst or injustice or the bitterness of life or the cruelty of fate: lifting a man today and flinging him down broken and ruined tomorrow.


The brisk rattle of cheerful bells made him look up almost into the face of a young donkey, gay tassels hanging from his bridle, and a rough hand on the leathern leading thong. Over the arched neck of the donkey suddenly appeared a brown, cheerful face that grinned at the man near the well.
“Your pardon, sir.” said the donkey driver. “Just giving my donkey a drink.”
The stranger shifted his position slightly as the donkey driver dipped a wooden bucket into the well.
“A thirsty day for man and beast,” he continued, and with fine democracy drank from the bucket himself, and then set it down before the donkey, who rattled his bells appreciatively and plunged his muzzle deep into the water.
“Stranger in these parts, aye?” queried the driver.
“Yes,” said the stranger.
“You don’t look any too cheerful.”
“Who would in this rotten world of ours?” The donkey driver considered this question philosophically; but the stranger, ready enough to pour out his pent-up anger and despair, hurried on.
“Why men go on living is beyond me. I for one am tired of it all, sick of the injustice that snatches a man’s wealth, flings away his money and leaves him to beg in the street; sets scoundrels above him and breaks him like a sapless twig.”
The donkey driver eyed the stranger’s purple-trimmed robe and the beautifully chased sword quizzically.


“You don’t look so badly off,” he ventured. “Mighty fine clothes you’re wearing, and that sword cost money.” The stranger laughed ironically.
“Saved from the wreckage,” he said. “Donkeys and donkey drivers may go on living,” he added. “Thank the Fates, wise men end the futility and injustice of it all.”
The donkey driver shrugged his shoulders with fine indifference, and the stranger turned to leave. But as he took a step he suddenly stopped.
Up the dusty street, heavy earthen pitcher on her shoulder, came a woman. She was young. One could tell that from her light step and her slim graceful figure, even though her face was covered with a light veil. Her bare feet scarcely stirred the dust they trod upon, and though her garments were homespun and her arms devoid of jewellery, she had the walk of a goddess or a queen.
“Who is that?” asked the stranger.
The driver looked over his shoulder.
“Her? She’s Mary of Nazareth, wife of Joseph the carpenter.”
The woman reached the well, flung back her soft veil in a gesture that had in it all the poetry of motion. The stranger stood, caught by the loveliness of her face. She stooped, dipped her pitcher and then lifted its heavy weight slowly to her shoulder. Again her veil dropped, and now, burdened by the heavy pitcher, she moved slowly, almost staggering under the weight she carried.
“A village woman?” asked the stranger incredulously.