First, they laid him, clean and swaddled, in my arms for the first time, and it was with jubilation and wonder. The air was rent with song and with the bleating of sheep as the shepherds came to see.
Then they laid him, bloody and ravaged, in my arms for the last time, and it was with grief and shame. The air was rent with sobs of remorse—wails of fear, after the earth shook and the veil was torn.
But when I saw him next, it was a private thing. My son and me, alone in the dazzling light.
It was, in a way, an eerie echo of that other night.
The same hour, just before the sun would rise. The same sense of fluttering vibration—of spark and power. The scent of electricity, of a thunderstorm crisp and sharp in the nose. Gabriel.
I knew while still dazed with sleep that heaven was with me once again.
And I knew before I opened my eyes that when I did, there would be Yeshua before me.
My boy, so beautiful. The apple of my eye, whose sunburned brow I had bathed, whose skinned knees I had kissed and bandaged—those small pains over which we mothers cluck and reassure (“It’s nothing, ahuvi, Eema will make it better”), even as my heart ached, every time, to see my little one stumble and fall, to endure his having to taste even a few of the bitter apples of life, when my wish for him was so very different.
I suppose I was the same as any mother, in those feelings. None of us can tolerate the sight of our children bloody, distraught, in need. We run to them, always, saying “I am here!” So anxious to fix everything, in any way that we may.
Each time I ran to him—whether he had truly hurt himself, or was simply scaring me beyond my breath (he would climb those trees and go much too high!)—it was with the memory of words uttered to me so many years earlier: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
I would go to him, answer whenever he called, not knowing what to expect. And deep in my heart, where no one else could hear, the question would arise: Is this the sword, Simeon? Has it come?
Joseph would gently tease me about it, sometimes. “He is a boy, my love, and boys skin their knees and aim their arrows poorly, and climb the tree too high . . .”
But Yeshua was not just any boy. He was mine. Mine beyond comprehending, even for Joseph, who probably understood best, but never fully. Even he, never fully.
My sweet boy, who always surprised me. Whose appetite was huge—for he played hard, studied hard, worked hard—but who loved the times of fasting and often entered into such intensive prayer all on his own accord.
My maddening boy, who would thoughtfully help me with little chores (seeming to know what I needed before I even asked), and who scared me beyond what I can describe when he hung back in Jerusalem once, while we had started out for home.
Three days. Three days we looked for him, and when finally we found him, and wondered how he could be so thoughtless—so easily parted from us—he asked us why we had looked so broadly, and with such anxiety; told us we should have known he would be in the temple. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
I was so happy to have found him that I clutched him to my breast until he ducked his head, giving me one of those looks a son gives his mother when he feels over-coddled.
And the look I gave him in return said, “Now that I know you are safe, I would happily drag you from this temple by your ear and march you back to Nazareth at forced pace.”
And then he smiled at me, and kissed my cheek and apologized, and it was with a great heave of a sigh that I forgave him.
And once again, I questioned: Was this the blade, Simeon, that I have barely survived?
Joseph and I clung to each other that night, praising God that our Yeshua was safely with us, asking for help in raising this strange and lovely boy into manhood.
“Do you know, Miriam,” Joseph whispered as he smiled and stroked my hand, “You and I may be the only people on earth to receive an apology, offered in real humiliation, from this One? The only ones from whom he may ever need to ask forgiveness?”
People think Joseph was silent all the time. He wasn’t. He was thoughtful though. And almost always, wise. And he was reassuring. And he made me smile and remember that we were a family being led about by heaven, and angels and dreams, and so naturally, these humbling moments of strangeness would always be part of our story.
On that morning, that Sunday after Pesach, he had been gone away from me for three days, just as he had remained behind in his Father’s house. After a whole lifetime experiencing those small stab wounds that come to each mother—going deeper, becoming more frequent, in those days before the holiday—I finally had been pierced; truly, fully.
My soul was rent. Three days of Simeon’s promised sword in my breast, cleaving me in two.
The small tortures of motherhood was what I had thought Simeon had prophesied for me.
But then I saw him, my son, hauled out before the crowds, scourged and bloodied, nearly shivering in pain while all around me men and woman mocked him, or others ran away.
Oh, my son. The sight nearly broke me, nearly bent me in two.
My sweet innocent.
And I saw then the sword before me—high in the sky, brilliant and glistening, and sharpened to a point so fine I expected the sky to fall into two, collapsing all around me.
When he was born, there were wise men who came to the place where we were staying, seeking out my Yeshua, and bearing gifts. They found us, they said, by following an ever-present star, just as Moses and the Jews had followed a pillar of cloud.
Now, I followed a constant sword, which lingered over Golgotha, where it waited for me. And you, yourself a sword will pierce.
Enough, Simeon. Enough.
My son had done no wrong, and he was murdered. He died before my eyes, ripped apart, jeered at, gambled over. And at that moment, the earth trembled in anguished sorrow, and the sword sliced into me, impaled my heart, although no one could see.
No one could see me bleed as I beheld my beloved son, all drained of blood, like a lamb at sacrifice.
His blood. My blood.
Both of us drained, in our ways.
I kissed his perforated brow, his pierced hands.
My tender babe, my whole reason for being.
My husband’s duty and delight.
My beloved son, so greatly wounded.
And then, there he was, in my room. A blaze of light, an outreached hand, onto which I laid my own, only for a moment, and it was enough.
My son, my God, in startling glory. My Meshiḥa! Returned to me, from his Father’s house, his Father’s right hand.
And from my breast, the sword was lifted, and I became once more the Mother—strong and ready to proclaim “I am here!” The Mother of Yeshua, the Christ. The Mother of the living.
“See, Eema, I make all things new.”
This time, there would be no scolding, no exchange of looks all-too-human between us. The gaze we held was of only love, of only a whole understanding, a completeness.
We gazed in the lingering light, and smiled, because there was only joy.
And then he was gone. And John took me to where Peter and the rest were hiding, so I could pray with them, and for them. So I might Mother them, and all who would come after, forever, and forever.
When the shepherds had arrived, from my breast I raised the babe up, so they could adore him from the distance.
One hand I extended then, in pride, and welcome, and hope.
When the soldiers came, they raised him up, so that all could deride him, or be fooled by his destruction.
Two hands I extended then, in confusion, in pain, in praise I could not myself understand.
And then God raised him up, and for all time, and for all the people.
My hands come together then, in worship, in supplication, and for forever.
My children. I am here.
And this is forever.