I'm using this poem on Sunday, and thinking about it in relation to the Annunciation and Magnificat, the idea that Mary seems to think of being the God-bearer as a blessing rather than a burden, and possibly the subversive nature of what God is doing through her (and through all of us each day). I thought I'd share the poem with you. It came from the Iona Community publication Hay and Stardust and is by Anne Lawson.
Is this what you had in mind Mary?
Is this what you dreamed of,
idly planned and chattered of with the girls in Nazareth?
Did you dream that your first child would be
born out of wedlock
of an unknown father?
Born miles from home
in a place fit only for animals?
Is this the birth you dreamed of for your first child?
Did you dream your firstborn son would be
greeted by strangers?
Greeted by shepherds,
Outcasts of society?
Greeted by wise men
from strange far-off countries?
Greeted by the host of angels?
Is this the welcome you dreamed of for your son?
Did you dream of this life for your firstborn son?
A birth in a stable?
A desperate flight for safety?
A life as a refugee?
A peripatetic life?
A life in which other women cared for him?
A life with no wife, no family?
A life lived in the shadow of hostility?
A life ending in a criminal’s death?
A horrific death?
Is this the life you dreamed of for your son?
Did you dream of your own life?
A happy marriage?
A growing family?
Sons and daughters to care for you in your old age?
Did you dream of this for your own life?
And if you had known, in those days of idle teenage chatter,
as a girl in Nazareth,
what you know now,
would you have said “yes” to God’s angel so quickly?
Mary, did you say “Yes” to God’s angel so quickly?
Did you offer yourself to God so fast?
Was there no feeling of wanting to think?
No sense of anger, injustice even,
that God could take your body and life so easily?
Did you really understand all that was being said?
All that was being asked?
And would I have been so willing?
Would I have been so willing to offer myself to bear God’s Son?
To bear the shame and disgrace
of bearing a child of an unknown father outside of marriage?
Would I have watched my own son die?
Would I have lived with the wound of knowledge,
a sword which pierced my heart?
Would I have lived with the burden of unknowing?
I doubt it.
Thank you, Mary, that you did.
You heard and looked, observed and listened.
Lived with the pain of unknowing.
Lived with the shadow of the cross.
Not as a stained glass window saint,
not as some saccharine-coated statue,
but as a flesh-and-blood woman
who knew what it meant
to bear the burden of unknowing,
and was prepared to live the pain
of bearing God.