“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:34-35
I know we haven’t yet gotten past Thanksgiving, but my mind has been turning to the Christmas story. In the past I’ve often been amazed at the thought of what Mary faced as a young virgin commissioned by God to carry His own Son in her womb and then raise Him to adulthood. The challenges are incredible to consider from the scorn of her community at her pregnant and unmarried state to the chagrin and pain of Joseph her betrothed.
This year I’ve thought of another challenge she faced. It is 40 days after Jesus’ birth and Mary and Joseph have gone to the temple to complete her purification. In the temple Simeon a very devout and very old man approaches Mary and Joseph and prophecies over their son. One phrase had to have stayed with Mary all of her life – “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” What did that mean to her as she stood holding this precious infant boy? Did it strike terror into her heart? Or did she continue to stand in her faithful declaration that “From now on all generations will call me blessed . . . ?“ And then I imagine her watching as her son, flesh of her flesh, one she has loved and cherished and delighted in watching grow up for thirty three years is beaten and murdered before her eyes. What agony this experience had to be for her.
There is a comfort for me in realizing that the prophetic praise that came from Mary’s mouth after the angel left her is the true status we attribute to Mary. We do think of her as blessed and not as bereft. We think of her as eternally happy and in eternal relationship with her son and savior, Jesus. In the birth, life, and death of Jesus we see the brevity and struggle of life that flows into the reality of eternity. We are allowed to see the end from the beginning – to take a look at life and death from God’s point of view. How I praise the author and finisher of our faith for showing us the way!
“And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-49