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A. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) Walsh.

Mary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus online

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pass over savingly where humanity has pains and death.”

The old priest looked away toward Jerusalem, as he spoke—his voice
meanwhile becoming very tender, almost tremulous. Had one been able to
enter his heart, there would have been seen a memory picture of Calvary.
Miriamne was awed for a few moments; the old man was lost in thought;
presently she recalled his attention: “Father, the band is just at hand.
Shall I introduce you?”

“It is needless; I formed that Band of Charity, though I gave them not
the name; most all except the recruits of to-day know me.”

The singers went by, saluting the priest as they passed; obeying his
signal to them not to tarry.

Miriamne turned to her comrade with quickened confidence, and with her
usual impetuosity exclaimed:

“I want to be what you like. Make me a Balsamite!”

“Thou hast a mother who might object.”

“Oh, no, no; not if she knew all, as do I.”

“Some have called my work witchcraft.”

“I don’t care, since I know better. Make me a Balsamite, now, please?”

“So be it, child. Put thy hand on thy heart and repeat: ‘_I promise my
Merciful Father always to show heartfelt kindness to all His creatures,
especially those in misery, because of His everlasting goodness toward
myself._’”

“I promise that gladly. Is that all?”

“Yes; thy badge, a sprig of the evergreen balm-shrub, shall teach thee
the rest.”

“Teach me the rest?”

“Puzzled again, child? Well, I’ll teach thee, and the shrub shall recall
my lessons. As thou dost learn to love nature, as thou wilt when getting
back to a more child-like faith, nature will talk to thee all the time.
See, this is unfading; so is mercy. When torrid suns make the shrub
suffer, it sweats or weeps these healing gums. Trials make all good souls
fruitful. Then see, this little shrub gives to the world all it receives,
transforming its earthy nourishments, sunshines and showers, into a
medicament for sufferers. It is a type of the All-Giver. It has but three
flowers, and I read in these the signature of a Triune God. This thou
wilt, perhaps, read some time for thyself, when thou hast learned the
mystery of the Unspeakable Gift.”

“My father, your wisdom is very beautiful.”

“Would, my child, that my words ever be to thee as the nuts of this
little evergreen emblem, though rough-coated, still filled with liquid of
honey sweetness.”

The maiden yearned to embrace the priest. Had she done so, her feelings
would have been like those of a daughter toward a father, or a devotee
toward God. She yearned to express love for father. The fountain of that
affection, hitherto unevoked, was full. But she restrained herself, and
said, as she clasped the old man’s arm: “May I be crowned?”

“Yes, daughter; having served the bleeding as thou didst to-day, thou
mayst.” The priest twined together some of the balsam bows and placed
them upon her brow. “I saw once, at Damascus, a painted presentment of
the mother of our Lord, on wood, from which, continuously, there exuded
a precious nard, of all healing virtue. So they said, at least; and
more than this, I was assured it had power to heal even the wounds of
infidels.”

“Is this really so?”

“I believe a Christian kindness to an unbeliever a medicine to the soul
of the blesser and blest. That’s why I’m merciful to Moslem.”

“But you court dangers, do you not? I remember your telling me once, that
fanatics, or men with a false religion, falsely practiced, were like mad
dogs—one could never tell when they might bite the kindest master.”

“True, some forgetting the essence of all religion worth the name,
Charity, to propagate their theories, easily befool their consciences and
murder gratitude. But ingratitude is a Christian and Jewish, as well as a
heathen fault. In this all are alike. Still, though a man spoil all the
good I try to do him, there’s one thing he can not spoil.”

“And that is what?”

“The bird of sunny plumage that sings in my heart because of the good I
attempt. I met a French pilgrim, a while ago, who spent his time mostly
in helping, as he could, to make the Mohammedan children he met, happy.
He sang to them, gave them presents, acted as umpire in their sports, and
if one got hurt he mothered it—(that’s what he called his tender, odd
ways). Some called him wrong in his head, but when I knew him I believed
that one sane, amid thousands crazed.”

“Who and what was he?”

“I asked him, and for reply got only this: ‘I’m Melchisedec, a priest of
the wayside, seeking to win silver hands, silver feet, and crown jewels.’”

“Well, he would have frightened me, if I’d met him speaking that way and
in such moods?”

“Oh, no; he was not frightful; he seemed to attract even the birds, and
the ownerless curs ran to him when others spurned them. He once, when
sick, told me that he came from Toul, in Lorraine, where was enshrined an
image of Madonna with a silver foot. He believed that tradition, which
declared that that presentment of Mary gave a sign by taking a step, on a
certain time, which warned some of great impending danger, and thereupon
the member was changed to the precious metal.”

“It’s a pretty story.”

“At least the lesson is honey-like. No being can strive to help another
without finding the All-Shining often in his own soul. So our crowns are
made.”




CHAPTER XIX.

THE QUEEN’S CHILDHOOD.

“Now raise thy view,
Unto the vision most resembling Christ’s.”—DANTE.

“Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God.”—GABRIEL.


Miriamne, all aglow with pleasurable excitement and filled with a
curiosity which at times rose to very serious questioning as to her own
faith, anxiously sought to compass an early meeting with the “Old Clock
Man.” She could not content herself to wait a chance opportunity, and so,
remembering that it was his custom at evening time to visit, alone, for
meditation various old ruins like those of the Reservoir, she determined
to seek him there; it being not very far from her home. With beating
heart she repaired thither at sunset, the day after the Mameluke attack.
Having traversed the Reservoir’s side some two or three hundred feet,
she was on the point of returning, for the place was very lonely, when a
voice startled her.

“Oh, Father Adolphus, how you frighten me! I’m so glad you came!”

“Looking for me, yet frightened at finding me. Glad I came, though I
scared you?”

“Well, men and women when frightened are glad of the fellowship of any
thing seemingly strong. It’s easy for the terrified to believe or trust.”

[Illustration: By Carl Muller.

THE EDUCATION OF MARY.]

“There’s rare philosophy in thy head, little woman.”

“So? What were you saying when I startled so?”

“That the silvering of the moon brought out thy person beautifully. So
she that sits above the moon, a queen in heaven, would beautify thy soul
if thou shouldst elect to put on the character she ever wore.”

“I can’t do that, knowing so little of her.”

“A woman’s way of saying, tell me more.”

“You would not torment your Mary with such repartee.”

“Woman again. Art thou jealous already?”

“Fie.”

“Say that again! Once the foil of one of thy sex is penetrated, not
having arguments, she can at least say ‘fie’! Well, even ducklings hiss
when helplessly entangled.”

“Adolphus Von Gombard, I’ll not call you ‘father’ again, if you approach
me any more in this courtier fashion.”

“Again, I say, an old head; but I’d plead privilege.”

“At least old enough to discern the sacred line that bounds all proper
commerce between the sexes. You plead privilege; I grant you the noblest
any woman can give, the privilege of guiding my immortal soul; but I
remember to have heard that he who would shepherd such as I, must be to
her as a woman. The relationship between us must be as that between the
angels of heaven who neither marry nor are given in marriage.”

“Some young women receive teachings most willingly from fine-favored and
patronizing instructors.”

“I know it; but let none patronize me so. I’ve begun to adore the Sacrist
of Bozrah, but if a breath or word passes that makes me think of him
chiefly as being a man, then I shall sit in his presence in fright,
or flee as I would were I to find the place changed into a lonely
night-draped waddy, my only company an image of some leering, giant
Bacchus. But this unequal defence is painful.”

“Then desist and tell me what I’m to do.”

“You have been my ideal man, for heaven’s sake rob me not by changing!”

“Right nobly spoken, daughter. Now pardon me, for I was putting thee to a
test.”

“A test?”

“Yes. It’s forbidden, by customs hereabout, for man and woman, as we,
alone to converse face to face; perhaps wisely, if one be bad and the
other weak. Yet the custom is heathenish—low moral tone engendering
mighty suspicions!”

“Did my priest think me a heathen?”

“No, not that; but they say the moon makes lovers and others mad. I was
wondering whether I was dealing with a bundle of romancings or an earnest
girl?”

Delicately the maiden avoided the query with another:

“You loved Mary: why did you not wed her?”

“Woman again; doomed to make all vistas end in wedlock. With your sex
love, beginning to give, gives all readily, and seems to find no rest
until there’s conjugal union.”

“I have not desired to give all that way to those I’ve loved!”

“It is all or nothing. Ye women love only relatives, and never cease to
desire to make all relatives whom ye want to love. Why, girl, my Mary
is a saint; she died ages ago, after the flesh; but as a model for all
womankind lives forever,”

“How was she your Mary, then?”

“She belongs to every noble minded man as his inspirer.”

“Mary—you call her Mary. I thought all the holy and the great had
uncommon names?”

“In fiction they do; in reality the name is nothing.”

“Was she wise and beautiful?”

“One of our most holy teachers, Epiphanius, who lived less than four
hundred years after Mary, spent many years at Bethlehem and gathered
facts that caused him thus to write. ‘She was of middle stature, her face
oval, her eyes brilliant and of an olive tint; her eyebrows arched and
black, her hair a pale brown, her complexion fair as wheat. She spoke
little, but she spoke freely and affably. She was grave, courteous,
tranquil. In her deportment was nothing lax or feeble.’ Saint Denis, the
Areopagite, who is said to have seen this queen of David’s house in her
lifetime, declared that she was ‘a dazzling beauty,’ that he ‘would have
adored her as a goddess had he not known that there was but one God!’ Of
this much I’m certain, my Bozrah Miriamne, one so serene of character,
and so pure, must have reflected her inner, imperishable beauties in her
features.”

“Father Adolphus, you mention strange names. There are none that sound
like those revered by my people. Do you ever hate my race? If you do you
must not teach me any doctrine.”

“Hate? Why, I love all peoples, and by faith I am made a child of
Abraham.”

“Then you are a proselyte?”

“Not by any forms. I believe in the God of Abraham and His Messiah. That
makes me a perfect Jew.”

“This is strange. My mother never unfolded it to me.”

“Ah, she has not yet looked into these royal mysteries?”

“But, good father, is your name among our chronologies?”

“Thanks to the God of the Patriarchs, yes; it is with that of Moses,
David, Elijah, and all the rest, in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

“Where?”

“In Heaven.”

“How wonderful; yet I’m afraid to hear more.”

“Shall I take thee home?”

“No; tell me more of Mary. You say she made you lonely and a father?”

“I must then begin her history, and show thee how and why she lived?”

“Do you think it will tire me?”

“Fear not! Her story is a poem, a picture, a tragedy; it’s one long
delight.”

“Then tell it to me, I pray you.”

So the priest proceeded:

“When the world was very wicked, and therefore very sad, God in His
goodness was drawn to send from heaven a light-bearer—some one to tell
man his duty and able to win back to the Great Father mankind’s straying
affections. Thou dost know this much, and hast read in thy sacred
Scriptures how God called to the universe, all chaotic and dark, to come
forth into beautiful form; how he said to the darkness, ‘_Let there be
light_.’ That history bears within it a fine sermon. It’s a picture of
God’s. Out of sin, darkness, confusion, there emerged a perfect man in
a Paradisiacal home, with a perfect, beautiful woman as a help-mate by
his side. That was God’s ideal of perfection and happiness. It delighted
the Father of Joys to make it. This is ever true; behind all clouds in
God’s Providence is sunshine, and beyond all disorders somewhere at last
will walk forth unalloyed pleasure, a Sabbath-like rest, and fullness of
harmony.”

“Oh, can you make me believe and feel this?”

“Wait patiently.”

“I try to do so; but I’m discouraged by the present miseries in my family
and in all our nation.”

“God mourns over all our sorrows before they or we are born, but His
wisdom and power of cure are faultless. Wait. Times are mending, and
the moral sphere is dipping into the rim of light’s oceans. I think the
angels perceive the world now, as thou perceivest the new moon.”

“The poetry of the words I can not interpret.”

“The moon’s a dark globe, with a ribbon of silver across it.”

“And things have been worse; now are bettering?”

“Assuredly so. Believe there is a God, and thou’lt rest in hope. Go
back a little in history to when Cæsar Augustus, of awful pagan Rome,
ruled the world, having won dominion through desolating wars. The most
educated Romans then believed in no hereafter, and sought openly, without
restraint, the grossest pleasures. The ignorant believed in fabled
monstrosities. Rome set the fashions of all the world. The Jews, thy
people, God’s people, were lower, morally, then, than ever they had been
before. They were divided into warring families and sects, holding a
few forms and traditions, but having little heart in religion. The rest
of mankind was barbarous. Thou hast heard how the Roman Titus overthrew
Jerusalem, slaughtering thy people by thousands, defiling their holy
Temple and seeming to blot out nearly the whole of thy race. That time
of Titus was midnight; since that the day has been slowly advancing.
Before that awful culmination of sorrows, the Divine Trinity held august
council, and, as say the traditions of my church, determined to bring a
holy sunrise to the earth’s midnight. The trouble of all creation was
that man had fallen. The Divine Council decreed to confound the devil,
who broke up the first home and ruined the first pure pair by causing
to emerge from another home, another pair. They came, this time mother
and Son, to be the moral patterns for the race, the beginning of a new,
sin-conquering dispensation. The fathers hand down these sayings: ‘The
august, regal Triune Council thus decreed: “Let us make a pure creature,
dearer to us than all others.”’ They say she was begotten upon the
Sabbath, the birth-day of the angels, whose queen she was to be. Then
one thousand of the ministering spirits were commissioned to defend her;
while Gabriel was sent to announce the glad tidings of the birth of a
Saviour’s mother, in Hades. Her angels appeared as young men, of majestic
mien, of marvelous beauty and pure as crystals. Their garments were like
gold, richly colored, and could not be touched any more than could be the
light of the sun.”

“How charming! But is this all true?” exclaimed the maiden.

Without reply, the priest continued: “They were crowned with diadems,
exhaling celestial perfumes; in their hands they bore interwoven palms;
on their arms and breasts were crosses and military devices. They were
swift of flight, some of them six-winged, like the angels of Isaiah’s
vision.”

“How dazzling! But is this all true?” Miriamne persisted.

“Well, it’s not in thy sacred books nor in mine so written.”

“Then you are giving me your imaginings?”

“Oh, no; but after the manner I have spoken, it is recorded in revered
traditions of my church, and none can very well disprove the sayings.”

“I wonder if such honors made Mary proud?”

“A strange query.”

“I’d like to love one such as she, but could not if she were haughty or
lofty, like the great of earth.”

“It would have made such as thou proud, perhaps; but there was none of
the serpent in her whose Offspring was to crush the serpent’s head.”

“Is there any of the serpent in me?”

“I’m not thy judge.”

“Then she was immaculate?”

“Ah, that’s a question for the doctors. I’m too simple to know beyond
what is written. I’m glad to know that she rejoiced in her son, as a
God and a _Saviour_!”—“She was of noble family, though her parents were
poor,” the priest continued. “Her mother was by name Anna, and worthy
of the name, which is by interpretation ‘_gracious_.’ Traditions of
her goodness are many, and the good and great have honored her memory.
I paid Anna homage, that of a youth respectful of worthy motherhood,
at Constantinople, in a church erected in the year 710 to commemorate
that saint. Among others, also Justinian, the Emperor, in the year 550,
dedicated a sacred place to Mary’s mother.”

“Then she had her meed of praise, at last?”

“Tradition, though tardy, has been just; but I trust not tradition alone.
I easily reason that there must have been much of goodness and womanly
beauty in the mother that bore such a woman as Mary. I know that God can
bring forth angels from the offscourings, but that is not His way. He
works by steps upward. I tell thee, girl, the mother gives her life to
her offspring, and in spite of training, almost in spite of regeneration,
the characteristics of this parent will reappear in the child. But to my
story about Mary’s parents, Jehoikim and Anna.

“Blessed be God, Anna and Jehoikim were untainted by the pride of life,
and, though living in a time of loose morals, walked lovingly, constantly
with each other, through all their days. I talk to thee as to a prudent,
but not prudish, young woman. Society is well rotted when divorce is
about as common as marriage; it was that way in Anna and Jehoikim’s time.
Why, even the exacting Pharisees then taught that a man might divorce
a wife who had lost her personal beauty, or badly cooked her husband’s
meat. Jehoikim might have left Anna, for she was childless; that was
reason enough for divorcement to the average Jew, then. But their love
was beautiful. The man, as was his duty, clung tenderly to his wife; her
misfortune making her all the more in need of his tenderness. Dost thou
not think so?”

“I suppose so. I don’t know.”

“Pardon my earnestness; it made me forget thy inexperience!

“Well, God rewarded their constancy, and they became the parents of
my Mary. The father had a noble ancestry; but, what is better, within
himself a royal heart. He bore by right the priestly office; but that
was not much to such a man, in respect to worldly gain. Honest priests
in his time were generally poor; the priestly preferments went, most
richly laden, to those who dealt corruptly, and truckled to the ruling
powers. Mary’s father was above sordidness and simony. He had little to
give or to leave to his beloved, but he left his child a good name and
the remembrance of the blessed. So while God chose the humble to confound
the mighty, and serenely exalted those of low estate, He was mindful to
choose His elect from the ranks of the morally great. Such are found in
all places and times, and when surrounded, as were these pious parents,
by the gross, low and selfish, they shine with transcendent splendor.
In Tisri, the first month of the Jewish civic year, while the smoke of
the holocausts were ascending, to invite heaven’s pardon, Mary, who
was to bring forth the world’s greatest offering for sin, was born at
Nazareth. Her career was fore-ordained, and she was soon walking her
course of piety and sorrow. Though inexperienced and tender-hearted,
sorrows in heaviest, grimmest forms fell upon her. Her father died when
she was, it is said, only nine years of age; not long after, the girl
knelt, a mourner, by the bier of her mother; the golden hairs of youth
mingling, in the disheveling of utter grief, with the gray, which crowned
the queen and guide of her heart, her mother. On the threshold of her
life Mary’s parents were called away from her, leaving her no heritage
but their precepts and example. They say that Jehoikim’s hands were
stretched out, as in benediction, when he died, and so remained until his
burial, reminding all that his last act was a commendation of his little
daughter to Him who carries the lambs in his bosom! The picture of these
outstretched hands, and of the girl embracing the aged dead mother, are
often in my mind; they never fail to deeply move me. Poor orphaned lamb!”

Miriamne brushed away a tear, a sort of self-pitying tear. She ran
forward in mind, to the day when she, herself, would be orphaned, without
a benediction, or, perhaps, a cheering memory. Then she questioned:

“Did your Mary have other friends?”

“Yea, her Heavenly Father. It is said, also, that she was cared for by
the elders of the people, and religiously trained under the very shadows
of the Temple. We may readily believe this; for, in her after life, she
evinced a self-possession in adversity that witnessed of a thorough
religious culture. If there was no other evidence, her splendid poem,
the ‘_Magnificat_,’ would convince any seeking proof, that Mary had had
surpassing benefits and privileges in the study of God’s words, as well
as in the best learning of her people, the Jews. But, Miriamne, I’ll
weary thee; let us turn toward thy home.” Presently they stood not far
from the old stone house of Rizpah; then Von Gombard drew from under his
mantle a roll of writings. “Here, take and read. After its perusal I’ll
see thee again.” So saying, the old priest lifted a hand in blessing, and
then moved away toward his abode.




CHAPTER XX.

THE WEDDING, THE BIRTH AND THE FLIGHT.

“Seraph of heaven; too gentle to be human,
Veiled beneath the radiant form of woman.
Sweet benediction of the eternal curse;
Veiled glory of the lampless universe!
Thou moon beyond the clouds, thou living form;
Thou wonder and thou Beauty——
Thou harmony of nature’s art.”—SHELLEY.

“Take that one hour at Bethlehem out of human history, and
eighteen centuries of hours are left but partially explained.”—PROF.
NEWMAN SMYTH.


“What so engages thee, daughter?” questioned Rizpah, as they sat together
at evening in the old stone house.

“I’m reading the story of a lovely orphan girl. I wish I were, in heart,
as lovely as she.”

“Was she a white citadel, pure and strong?”

“Peerless, indeed; the very queen of women, I think.”

“Oh, then thou must be reading of glorious Rizpah? Now fill me with this
matter! I thirst to hear.”

Miriamne, though fearful of further exposing her thoughts and study,
obeyed, knowing full well that nothing would so stimulate her mother’s
curiosity as attempted evasion.

“I’ve been reading of the orphan girl’s marriage. Shall I go back, or
continue from that period? Her name was Mary, and she was a Jewess;
that’s the sum of the beginning.”

“Go forward,” sententiously replied the elder.

Miriamne complied:

“The guardians and relatives of Mary determined that she should
early wed some proper person to be her protector, and so,
according to Jewish custom, they went about the selection of a
husband for her as soon as she had reached her fourteenth year.
This selection was deemed a pious and serious duty by all the
participants therein; therefore it was made by an appeal to the
Lord with lots. Zacharias, the presiding priest, managed the
proceeding, as follows: He first inquired God’s will in prayer.
An angel brought reply, saying: ‘Go forth; call together all



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 18 of 40)