Song of the Holy Family
by a Poor Clare Colettine
was a lovely, sunny day and I was working as usual in my shop exchanging
the odd word with people passing by, just the usual kind of thing that
people like to say and hear, when I heard laughter drifting from somewhere
up the street. Old Simon was just telling me about the new taxes and
the devious way the Romans have dragging the last denarius out of our
“Disgraceful,” he was saying,” how much longer is this going on....”
I was going hot and cold, sometimes walls have ears... then this happened.
I was relieved, then surprised, then curious. Passing by were two young
girls with pitchers on their heads, nothing special about that, but
one of them ... my goodness, I could not take my eyes off her. Old Simon
was rambling on finally realizing that I was staring past him. Giving
me a sideways look he said:” Joachim’s daughter, she is a one ... but
who am I to tell you.”
Then he left and I was glad. He has sharp eyes, has Simon, and a loose
tongue! But what a girl ... I can’t get her out of my mind.
Some time ago the old rabbi took me aside admonishing me to do my duty.
I knew what he meant but so far I have been content on my own, working,
praying, going to the synagogue on the Sabbath ... I have been quite
content, really. I do know that every grown-up man must marry to have
a son, because one day the Expected One will come, one day!
Come to think of it, I seem to remember Joachim has passed away, Anna
is now a widow, hmmm.
I must talk with the rabbi and with Anna, of course.
asks Mary to be his Wife
other do I want. None other will I take. I am only a poor labourer in
Israel with no wealth to offer you, you are a queen among women. I come
with my thumb wrapped in a rag asking you to be my wife.
From the moment I met you I knew you were special and very close to
our God. I also knew that God had entrusted you to me; though why He
would entrust such a treasure to me is beyond me. This gift left me
breathless and stammering. Daughter of Israel , Miriam bar Joachim,
I barely dare ask you to be espoused to me, but I will guard the priceless
treasure that you are with all my being.
It has been such a day for me. Quite
a lot to do and not the right wood for the job. Old Simon passed by,
he could not stop himself to tell me that he saw my Mary with a bundle
joining the monthly caravan. Of course he wanted to know where she was
going but I was not letting on. Why should I? “Family affairs, I said
and he got the message. Sometimes my patience runs thin.
Now I am sitting here alone with my thoughts. I have not liked her to
go, but of course she must help her cousin now. What a blessing to have
a child at that age. Truly the ways of the Almighty are mysterious!
It is all so strange. I miss her already and I feel uneasy, but I don’t
know why. My Mary is such a good girl. I trust her completely.
As soon as she returns I must make arrangements, Anna will be pleased.
I am a lucky man.
is different, I can see that. Seven times a day I have praised you,
Lord, and thanked you that you have given this woman to me. Now I have
no words for what I see before me. It is so sudden, so unexpected. Must
I now sacrifice my Miriam as Isaac thought he had to sacrifice his son
Isaac? The wound burns already in my soul and in my heart. My Mary,
this wonderful treasure, lost to me, just lost.
Lord, you were the strong foundation of our relationship; you were to
be the centre of our life together. Mary, my Mary, so gentle and yet
so strong. Now you are to be a mother, but it seems that I can have
no part in your life as it is now. I still love you, I will not expose
you, never. I will do what I must do, but quietly. Let people blame
me for it, it is the one thing I can do for her.
O Lord, strange are your ways, yet, though I walk through this valley
of darkness, I will still trust you, Lord.
a queer night I had! I went to bed rather late, agitated as I was because
of this affair. I was tormented by doubts, am I doing this the right
way? I was so sure of her. But facts are facts.
But then I had an odd dream. An angel seemed to be standing next to
me calling me by my name. I was startled, I am just an ordinary man
and not a learned rabbi. This kind of thing does not happen to the likes
of me--but then I could not doubt it. He was so majestic and beautiful.
He towered over me. I was confused, thrilled and frightened all in one
go. Then he spoke to me and his voice was like a gentle breeze: Joseph",
he said, "Joseph, do not hesitate to take Mary as your wife, the child
to be born of her is God’s Son, the Almighty entrusts Him to you. Please
look after Him and his mother also.” That was all he had to say. I really
don’t know what to make of it, it’s all so odd. How could the Almighty
have a Son? Is he perhaps going to be the Messiah? I just don’t understand.
I can’t ask the rabbi, but I am going to talk to my Mary, we must get
takes Mary to his House
is but a workman’s house, Mary, nothing very grand. I made a new cupboard
for you to keep your things in and I swept up the wood-shavings afterwards,
though no doubt, they will be back soon! It’s a sound and strong house
and I will be strong for you and the precious burden you are carrying
within. I want to love you, my Mary, with all my heart and our love
shall be creative, our giving to each other can be and will be complete!
Fiat! Be it done unto me, be it done unto us. We will yield ourselves
to God and to each other fully, in truest love. Our tenderness will
be wholly of God, for God and in God. In our hearts will be gathered
all the hopes and dreams of Israel. The blessed fruit of your giving
I will love guide and protect.
Miriam, I take you now into my home that our marriage may be ratified
in the eyes of the Almighty and the world. I will share your maternity
and guard your virginity. Welcome home, my bride, my sister, mother
of my fruitfulness also.
we have finally arrived! But what a place this town has become! The
lanes are crowded with people, but nobody seems to know his nearest
neighbour passing by. It is this census that has caused this. Every
man must return to his place of birth to be registered with his clan.
I must say I was looking forward to meet some of the old folks again,
but I might have known that there would be no room anywhere ... I just
briefly met old Hannah and she took one look at my Mary and quickly
pointed to a new pub further on, hopefully not yet overrun. She ask
no questions about my wife and I was grateful for that. But she urged
me to be off rather speedily. So on we pushed through the crowds shouting
and waving at each other catching up with bits of news after so many
years of absence. But, really, we had no time to lose. Eventually we
got here only to find that even this place was packed out to capacity.
It was the landlady who with a knowing wink directed her young lad to
take us across the yard and here we are in this shelter, at least it
Well, this was possibly the most exciting
night of my life! No sooner had we arrived that things began to happen.
Mind you, my Mary was well prepared and I just gave a hand. But then
something very odd happened. I had this feeling that somebody was watching
us. I looked around, but there was nobody, the ox was chewing contently,
the donkey exhausted from the long trek was dozing also, so there was
nothing and no one else. But still I felt odd, I could have sworn that
there was somebody somewhere! Then I spied it, a pair of dark brown
eyes behind bushy eyebrows in a bearded face looming up between the
wall and the roof. Not an unkind face, just a curious expression and
a rumbling voice said: “Saw the light as I passed by,” and then,” Need
a woman, don’t you?” Turning round to someone behind him he said something
and I heard hasty footsteps disappearing into the dark. I moved to the
door holding the lantern aloft only to discover that the man must
be a shepherd of sorts, because he has a lambkin slung over his
shoulders. “Poor thing got lost,” he said by way of an explanation,
"they do stray sometimes and then they panic and become an easy prey
for the wolves, you see.” I took an instant liking to him, rough but
a heart of gold. “Sent the lad to fetch the wife, you need a woman.”
So far he had avoided looking at my Mary but I was sure that he had
taken the situation in.
At that point several figures emerged, in front a youngish lad followed
by a matronly woman who made straight for the place where my Mary rested.
I was glad, she could do with some help. But there were others too,
talking excitedly:” Where is the child,” they wanted to know,” we had
been told that there would be a child.” I became frightened and moving
over I placed myself in front of my Mary, but she smiled. This gave
me confidence, my Mary knows. So we squatted down and they told me that
an angel, no less, had proclaimed unto them about our child having been
born this night in a stable. "We must have looked doubtful, because
the angel gave us a sign,...'he will be wrapped in swaddling-clothes
and laid in a manger.' Then we knew, he would be one of us, also help
was needed. So we came and brought some food.”
Well, I don’t mind admitting that I was ready for a good spread, all
this anxiety makes a body hungry. Then they went their way and we got
some rest. But ever since that time my Mary and I have pondered at what
those men had to say.
is good to have you both in a solid house at last, Mary, grateful as
we were for the straw and a roof over our heads. The Lord’s ways are
strange and mysterious and nothing comes more mysterious than these
visitors, gentiles, but God-fearing men. They were searchers, with open
minds and hearts and nobility in their eyes. “Of His kingdom there will
be no end,” the angel had said to my Mary, but who could have guessed
that gentiles would come seeking Him even while He is still a nursling
child. Such a strange tale as they had, quite odd. They told of a star
leading them. Our son, so little fuss at his birth. It seemed that everything
conspired to make His birth a hidden event: far from home not even
a proper house to live in. How could anyone know where to find Him?
And then this! Shepherds seeing legions of angels, gentile philosophers,
astrologers — it’s hard even to know what to call them, but wise men
they are, certainly, or seekers of wisdom. And such strange gifts! They
said they had learnt that a great king had been born to the Jews and
with little more to go on with than that fact, they went to Jerusalem.
I suppose it is understandable that they went straight to King Herod,
but it leaves me strangely uneasy — Herod is the last person we would
have told about the angel’s words about Davis’s throne! And along come
strangers from far away and they tell him! Truly the ways of the Almighty
are mysterious indeed! It was just odd to have such lordly men
in our humble lodging though. Funny thing is they did not seem to find
it strange at all.
all day long. I could not help it. Something was very wrong, somewhere.
I tried to hide my anxiety in front of my Mary, but I think she noticed
I was fidgeting. The day passed as usual, the baby was all right, that
is the main thing always. We bedded down, all as usual. It took me a
long time to go to sleep and then it happened. Something touched me!
No, I did not imagine this! Something touched my hand and a voice said:”
Joseph, get up, take your wife and the child and flee to Egypt.” Egypt,
he said, “ Herod is after the child and wants to kill him.” Instantly
I was fully awake, Egypt I thought, nothing nearer than Egypt!! Through
the desert ....with a baby! My heart pounded, I was sore afraid. Then
I turned to wake my Mary, but she was already awake. Together we packed
our few belongings. She asked no questions, seemingly she knew! I led
the donkey out and she mounted. The baby in her arms was fast asleep.
Quietly I closed the door. It had been a good place, people were kind
to us, but now we must go.
The sky was still dark, there was a gentle breeze, pleasant for travelling.
I called on the archangel Raphael journeying with the young Tobias and
my Mary remembered our forefather Jacob as he and his whole clan went
down to Egypt to meet his son Joseph. The Almighty had brought good
out of evil! Recalling the psalm:” Under the shadow of His wings...I
seized the donkey by the rein and passing through the city-gate we moved
towards the desert. Under the shadow of His wings.....
— Return to Nazareth
saying:” Mary, Mary, wake up my love!” Another dream, yes I had thought
to return to Judea after he angel had told us of Herod’s death, in fact
it was to Bethlehem we intended to go. The good people there would have
given us a place to live until we had a place of our own. No swollen
crowds this time. It was worrying, though, that Archelaus now ruled
the area in place of his father Herod, but I did not think that there
was any danger. Strange the way the Almighty works in our life: one
step at the time.” Go to Egypt,” so we went to Egypt.” Return to Judea,”
so we plan on Bethlehem. Now it seems that Judea is not the right place!
We will go North, my Mary, and head for Nazareth and the Almighty will
look after us and let us know the next step. For now, all I know is
that I must snatch from danger the treasure that the Almighty has entrusted
in the Temple
have been dreading this day, my Mary and I, not because we don’t want
our son to have his bar mitzvah, but because of the many things said
about him when he was born. Simple folks came and learned ones bringing
beautiful gifts, quite odd it was: gold for a king, frankincense for
the God and myrrh for burial. It was just so odd ...
But we have lived quietly here in Nazareth for years now and I suppose
we had silently hoped it would all work out for best. Our son
is a good son, he helps me with my work, he is friendly with the customers,
knows his place with his elders and altogether we would have liked it
to stay like this. I suppose most parents do.
But then he must go to Jerusalem, to the Temple and we had to take him
there in accordance with the Law.
Well, it worked out fine and we left as soon as possible, anxious to
start for home, but , of course, we met so many old friends that just
for a time we lost sight of him. Naturally, we knew him to be safe among
our friends and relatives, our boy likes to socialize but he is such
a good son. Never gave us a day’s trouble. As we journeyed on there
were fewer and fewer people as they gradually dropped out. Then it happened,
I noticed my Mary looking anxious. I looked around, where was our son?
He should have turned up by now. We asked, we searched, always the same
answer.....nobody has seen him. We returned to Jerusalem. I was beside
myself with worry. How could I have been so careless? I was responsible
for him! Up to now at least. My Mary was silent. At long last the Temple
loomed up on the horizon, we ran, here and there we looked, no luck
...Then we picked up a babble of voices and one ringing out above
the others, we knew in an instant, his voice! We turned the corner —
to my dying day I shall never forget the sight before us....here he
sat among the elders, asking questions and expounding the Scriptures.
An equal among equals. I was dumbfounded. I am just an ordinary man,
I had nothing to say, but his mother, she spoke out wanting to know
what he was about. He seemed surprised: "did you not know that I must
be about my father’s business?" Just that. Then He arose and came away
with us as if nothing had happened. Little was said on the homeward
journey, but just before we branched off to Nazareth I took a deep breath
and said:” Son, from to-day onward you are a man before the law, you
don’t have to come with....., He looked at me somewhat puzzled, then
He took my hand and his mother’s and together we in the direction of
Mary, it seems that I have to leave you ... and our son. It is hard,
believe me. Our son has strong hands and arms now and skills far surpassing
mine. I have taught him a trade, but he has taught me even more than
a trade. Never did a man have such skill with his hands as our son....
but then, never did a man have such a son. Such works he will do with
his hands, my Mary.
Three simple folks we have been, but we have loved one another. It has
been good to spend my life with you, my Mary and I
thank you! And our Jesus He will take care of you, I am sure of it.
I do not know what the future will hold for you or for Him, all I know
is that I must leave you. It has been a blessed life, I never expected
such closeness between the three of us, truly the Almighty was at the
centre of our life.
Ah, here comes our son! Son, look after your mother!
a Poor Clare Colettine Nun