As Saint Matthew describes in his Gospel, Saint Joseph received an angelic message in a dream-state as he lay pondering the breaking of his engagement to Mary of Nazareth.
“Joseph, son of David,” the Angel said, “don’t hesitate to take Mary as your wife! For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit.”
Agreeing to be the earthly support for this Blessed Woman became the life mission of this hardworking carpenter. Could he have had an inkling of the importance of standing by his betrothed – even though the angel assured him that Mary would give birth to one who would be called ‘Emmanuel’ – ‘God is with us’?
This extraordinary woman, who had been dedicated to the temple from a young age by her parents, Saints Joachim and Ann, would eventually become – even as a recent issue of National Geographic (December 2015) put it – ‘The Most Powerful Woman in the World’.
The conception of a child was a literal godsend to her ageing parents, Joachim and Ann. They had immense faith and trust in God, and were rewarded with the gift of all time – Mary – destined to be the Mother of God the Son.
Saint Anthony of Padua is said to have described her name thus – “The name of Mary is sweeter to the lips than a honeycomb, more flattering to the ear than a sweet song, more delicious to the heart than the purest joy!”
The beautiful nature of Mary developed during her time in the care of her relative, high priest Zachariah, father of John the Baptist, in the temple. He was often amazed, as even the Qur’an describes in the chapter on the house of Amram (3:37), to find her with fresh fruit out of season. Her explanation was,”All that you see comes from God, who provides what he pleases, without count or number”.
There is little left on record of the time the child, Mary, spent in her adopted home but it may have looked something like this.
Mary would have risen with birdsong at the hour ‘when bad angels are silent and when prayers are heard most favourably’. She dressed with extreme decency – without the refinement of jewellery – out of respect for the glory of God. Her apparel would possibly have been a hyacinth-blue robe of soft and velvet appearance, a white tunic confined by a plain girdle and a long veil with folds so formed as quickly and completely to cover the face.
Her shoes would have matched her robe. Morning prayer at the temple would have included the ‘Kaddisch’, going back to the Jewish flight from Babylon – “Oh, God, may Thy name be glorified and sanctified in this world which Thou hast created according to Thy pleasure; let Thy kingdom come; may redemption flourish and may the Messiah come speedily”.
Prayers would have been followed by embroidery of sacred vestments and temple tapestry. 4th century Saint Epiphanius tells us that never had the earth seen, or ever will it see, so many perfections combined in a simple daughter of the human race. He further relates that she was not tall of stature, her skin colour was that of ripe corn, with an aquiline nose, lively olive-pupilled eyes in a most beautiful oval face. Her looks reflected her chaste soul and her sweet voice gave consoling benevolence to those in need and her alms were dispensed with absolute discretion.
God does not change His ways abruptly. He prepares long before the great events that are to change the face of the earth: the virtues of Mary were to the Gospel what a cool and cheerful dawn is to a fine day.
May is mostly the month of Mary and in this year of 2020, twenty-six days are. She is, without doubt, more than happy to honour her Son with us on His five Special Days of the Lord, which, this year, include His Ascension and the Solemnity of Pentecost.
Hail, Mary, full of Grace.