Song of the Holy Family
by a Poor
Clare Colettine Nun
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.
Joseph 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
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 prepared!
Joseph 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.
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 is dry!
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
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.
Flight into Egypt
was restless 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.....
Dream — Return to Nazareth
heard myself 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 to us.
Finding 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 Nazareth.
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!
by a Poor Clare Colettine Nun