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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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“‘And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto
them; but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

“‘And He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.’”

“Daughter, there was a fine spirit in that house; it was enhaloed by the
girl-wife’s character! No wonder that the son increased in favor with God
and man! He was able to cope with the doctors mentally, yet subjected
himself to his mother. I’ll certify that he was wonderfully like his
mother. The traits of the woman that bore him are prominent in every man
of fine measure.”

“And are fine daughters, like their fathers,” laughingly questioned
Miriamne, as she glanced at a reflection of herself in a metallic mirror
suspended on the wall before her.

“Ah, that depends on whether they have wholesome fathers.” Then, turning
her eyes affectionately toward her daughter, Rizpah continued: “Thou hast
enough of Hebrew in thee to leaven thee. Yet, let me plant this in thy
memory, my lamb, destined most likely some time to lie in anguish on the
altar of maternity: Mothers determine beyond all else the fate of the
world by determining beyond all else the characters of their offspring.
Yea, girl, in the homes of industry, the bugle-calls of the soldier, the
moving orations of the holy teacher, there are ever heard echoes of their
cradle days.” Rizpah paused, drew a long sigh, and again broke forth:
“But, alas! men and women walk in pairs. How can the gentler of the
two, alone, or opposed by the stronger, succeed? I’ve seen paired birds
battle the sly serpent, creeping toward their birdlings, victoriously;
paired weakness triumphant over huge danger; and I’ve seen the lords of
creation dropping serpents upon their own mates and their own nestlings!
If one would find a monstrous cruelty, he must needs seek in human
homes!” Then the speaker, pausing, bowed herself, and sat swaying from
side to side, with her hands over her eyes. Miriamne, accustomed to such
action on her mother’s part, and knowing it was best when she was in
such moods to leave her to herself, withdrew quietly. Yet, Rizpah seemed
not alone to herself, for her mind was peopled with ghostly forms from
her gloomy past; all painful companions, but still courted by the woman
in her periods of morbidness. Presently she slept; the sleep of sorrow,
that mercy balm of nature which comes to pained or wounded humanity
as the power to grieve or ache is exhausted. The sleeper passed from
consciousness of things about her, followed by the forms that had haunted
her memory, and was soon among the wonders of dream land. Then came to
her the sound of mighty contentions, and it seemed as if opposing forces
were in conflict concerning herself. Rizpah, of the ancient, seemed to
be trying to drag the dreamer toward seven crosses supporting seven
stark forms. The babel of contending voices was silenced by others,
exulting, as if in victory. There was a change; the sleeper seemed to be
lifted up from caverns unutterably deep, and suffocating, upon a ruby
cloud, soft as down to the touch, but irresistible in uplifting. She
was borne swiftly, over vast realms of space, toward a golden gate-way
with tomb-like arch, whose cross-shaped portal swung invitingly open. A
river of light spreading to a sea, and vibrating with sense-entrancing
melody, flowed outward through the mighty gate-way. On either side of
the portals, and moving along the river, were many glorious beings. The
latter soared on wings of mighty sweep, whose motions seemed to beat
in accord with the melody of the flowing light, while, from within and
without the gate-way, there came the sound of countless voices, all,
as it were, mingling in the triumphant swellings of a grand anthem.
The dreamer discerned in the anthem two words, repeated over and over,
tirelessly: “_Glad Tidings!_” “_Glad Tidings!_” “_Glad Tidings!_” The
golden gate became rose-tinted; the color deepening to purple and gold
as down the stream of light there floated an island of gardens, and on
the island appeared two human forms; a youth and a maiden. The anthem
“Glad Tidings” continued; but sweeter, louder, deeper than before. And
the sleeper perceived that on the wings of the glorious beings there were
emblems; red crosses, about each cross a ring of fire; above the crosses,
bejeweled silver cups; then she knew that the twain on the island were
bride and groom. The scene changed; there was a consciousness of a flight
of time. She looked again, and on the island she beheld a mother lovingly
bending over a babe; over mother and babe tenderly bended a man, by the
pride and the affection he expressed, attesting himself the husband and
father. Rizpah was enraptured, and in her dream she prayed the scene
might tarry. She was nigh being envious of that happy mother. But her
prayer was denied her, for soon she was startled by a voice at her side,
saying, in tones of mournful rebuke: “Farewell, forever!”

The dreamer, looking about, beheld in her vision, her ideal, Rizpah; but
the latter was wonderfully changed. Her eyes were dim and sunken; her
form dwarfed, bowed and age-shriveled. Suddenly the whole vision faded
into thin air, and Rizpah, of Bozrah, awakened filled with condemnation.
Before she fully realized that she had been dreaming, she cried out:

“Rizpah, oh, Rizpah, tarry a moment!”

Silence was her sole reply. Little by little, as she collected her
thoughts, she comprehended that her vision, while sleeping, expressed
the facts of her life while waking. The heroine girl-wife of Nazareth,
the newer, finer, surer, truer ideal of womanhood, was demolishing in
the mind of the woman of Bozrah her former idol, the lioness of Gibeah’s
hill. She knew this, for she found herself contrasting the two ideals,
and in mind lingering by preference and with the greater delight about
conceptions of the younger. Then began the struggles of the giants in
her conscience; clean truth against hoar prejudices; sweet mercy against
bitter revenge; Mary of Bethlehem against Rizpah of Gibeah. The matron
of Bozrah, usually hitherto so self-sufficient, was changing. She felt
that yearning inevitable in the career of most women for a confidant. She
could not sleep; she could not now go down to get inspiration by standing
before the grim Rizpah-painting, in the lower room; she was miserable,
lonely and restless.

Mechanically, she moved toward her daughter’s chamber, some way feeling
that even a sleeper would be company to one so lonely as herself. Rizpah,
alone, at night, in the grim, giant house, groping her way toward
Miriamne’s sleeping place, was unconsciously illustrating her soul’s
quest. She was in heart seeking alone, and in the dark, some one to take
the place of her demolished ideal. Had the queen of women been there, in
person, Rizpah, then, would have welcomed her. She groped her way to the
maiden’s couch, feeling that, as she believed, her daughter was pure
and good and loving. Could the matron have analyzed her own feelings,
she would have found that she was in part led toward Miriamne because
the latter some way seemed like, or near to, the girl-wife who was
supplanting in the heart of Rizpah of Bozrah, the wild Rizpah of Gibeah.
A cloud passing let a flood of silvering moonlight full on the sleeper’s
couch, and Rizpah, feasting her eyes, murmured: “I wonder if that woman
of Bethlehem were not very like this maiden?” As the mother gazed on her
offspring she presently began noting features in the sleeper’s face that
reminded her of the absent father and husband. She recalled him as he
appeared under the palms that night at Purim, and as he was that day he
lay pale and bleeding in her all-giving arms. The whole past, that was
delightful, came trooping up, and with it there came the full light of an
old love revived; a renaissance of that she had supposed buried forever.
Soon the aged woman, all youthful again within, was mentally in hot chase
after the pleasure she had parted from so hastily long years before. She
was glad of her thoughts, for they were rejoicing; glad she was alone,
for the thoughts seemed sacred. It was no use, had she willed, to resist;
so she just gave up to the impulse, and with a half-suppressed cry,
passionately twined her arms about the sleeping girl, and covered the
face of the latter with burning kisses.

The maiden started up in affright, breaking the spell that swayed her
mother, but only in part at first. Rizpah was almost angered by the
awakening, which caused the vision her soul was embracing to take swift
flight. Her first glance seemed to say to the now awakened girl:
“Begone, intruder! Leave me for a time alone with—” but she recovered
herself, and was silent. Yet her mind ran on after the vision. She had
not been embracing the girl, but the girl’s father, in heart. Had he
happened there then, he would have been all-forgiven, all-welcome. So
wonderful the heart of one capable of deep loving as well as deep hating;
so wonderful the nature of such a woman as Rizpah, when her emotions,
aroused, spread their throbbing pinions to soar at the behest of revived
affection. “Human passion,” sneeringly some may say, and truly. But
human passion is a gift of grace. When it travels along right lines,
it quickens the one enriched by it to the noblest deeds. He whose name
is Love came to earth through the Incarnation to show the splendor
of human affection, working at its best in the kingdom of its finest
displays—the home circle. The fate of Eden made men believe a lie, but
Bethlehem refuted that lie for all time. Rizpah turned bitterly from
the fiery, disappointing love she had experienced to stamp all loving,
except parent love, a mockery. She had nursed her false creed, and
suppressed her rebel heart by adoration of the wintry ideal of Gibeah.
Now she was touched by a new influence, and it was to her as the touch
of spring to winter-prisoned nature. For a few moments daughter and
mother contemplated each other; the one as if dreaming, the other full
of wilderment. Then the former quietly said: “I’ve been very nervous
to-night. I’m quieter now, and will go to rest. Sweet dreams follow thee,
daughter.”

The maiden composed herself to sleep, and the elder woman passed out of
the room. The latter, in going, perceived on the floor-slab a parchment,
and bore it away with her. She said within herself as she did so: “It is
best for Miriamne that I know of her reading.” But, after all, she was
very curious to know all about the new matter, of which she had recently
heard a part, on her own account. The writing, that of a masculine hand,
ran as follows:

“MIRIAMNE:—As I promised, I have herein recorded, for the
help of thy memory, further facts about the Bethlehem Mother,
MARY. Keeping constantly in heart the wonderful words of the
angel Gabriel, she followed with constancy the wanderings of
her Son as He went forth to heal and preach. She heard with
pride and joy that a Dove of Peace from heaven overshadowed
Him at His baptism in Jordan; but immediately she was plunged
into anxiety, for he disappeared from the haunts of men
in a prolonged absence. This was during the time of His
temptation in the wilderness. He returned to gladden her,
but immediately set forth to new trials, labors and dangers.
The young Miracle-Worker was denounced and driven from among
the people of His youth. Tradition points to the very place
where his mother fell fainting, when she saw the people of
Nazareth dragging her Son to a precipice by the city, with
intent to cast Him down to death. At that place of the mother’s
overcoming the Empress Helena builded the sanctuary called the
‘_Church of the Terror_.’ But that loyal mother never wavered
in her allegiance to her Son, but, shortly after these things
formally, publicly, bravely, received baptism at His hands in
Jordan, at Bethabara. Indeed, this act on her part evinced
not only the faith of a disciple, but the zeal of motherhood;
her Son’s cause seemed to be failing, and she espoused it to
strengthen it in its most trying hour. She was willing to dare
all things to win for her Beloved a possible gain, however
small.

“The gathering storm grew darker about the Carpenter’s Son,
and the leaders of the people were planning His destruction;
but He pursued his work of healing and teaching serenely; His
mother constantly hovering near him to encourage Him. She
heard that John the Baptist, son of Elizabeth, the herald of
her own Child, had been slain because he had been true to
God. The harlots of the Court of Herod had procured John’s
death, because that holy man had rebuked their vices. But even
this shocking event did not overawe the mother of the Founder
of the New Kingdom. She stood in splendid contrast with the
murderers of the prophet. It was purity, almost single-handed,
against lust corseleted by the nation; two phalanxes; one of
few, the other of many; but, as common in this world, each
led by a woman. Mary, like a parent bird fluttering over her
nestling, sought by the fowler, hovered around her offspring.
She exemplified the finest, fullest utterance of faith, ‘Jesus
only,’ by determining to break up the home in Nazareth, in
order that all the family might keep near the beloved One in
His journeys. So it happened that when He was near Capernaum,
working Himself nigh unto death, they visited Him to persuade
Him to rest. Of this it is written:

‘_While He yet talked to the people, behold, His mother and His
brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him._

‘_Then one said unto Him, Behold, thy mother and Thy brethren
stand without, desiring to speak with Thee._

‘_But He answered and said unto him, Who is my mother? and who
are my brethren?_

‘_And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and
said, Behold my mother and my brethren!_

‘_For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in
heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother._’

“To all He herein proclaimed the doctrines of His kingdom,
self-denial, and though the words seem harsh, they were most
kind, for by them He said, as it were, to His disciples:
‘Behold these all-sacrificing relatives of mine are twice
related to me; by blood and by sufferings.’ It was, on Jesus’
part, a public adoption of His own family. As He had been
publicly adopted from on high when He typically submitted to
death in His baptism, so when He beheld His mother, having
forsaken all to be with Him, he proclaimed those that had
elected to share His sufferings His kin indeed. The sword of
His suffering bitterly wounded her when the rabble howled
after the Healer, “_Thou wast born in fornication._” But He,
amid all His engrossments, never forgot to minister to His
mother as a courtly, reverent, loving Son. These words of a
holy book not only speak of the workings of the providence of
God, but assure us that He that uttered them was prompted to
comfort His own widowed mother: ‘But I tell you of a truth,
many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the
heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great
famine was throughout all the land;

“‘But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a
city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.’

“And now for the present I close with all holy salutations.

“A. VON G.”

[Illustration: By P. R. Morris.

THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS.]

Rizpah was so engrossed with the matter of the letter that she scarcely
observed the initials at its end. As she turned the letter over there
fell into her lap a pictured parchment. It represented a woman, half
kneeling and with arms outstretched toward a beautiful child, the
latter balancing, and, as it were, taking a first lesson in walking.
“That woman’s face is some way very like that of my Miriamne’s in
beauty and thoughtfulness,” soliloquized Rizpah. Then observing a tent
in the picture, at one side and under the tent, the form of a strong,
dignified man, she again scrutinizingly exclaimed, “In truth, that face
is Harrimai’s! How like my father!” For some time she sat considering the
group, and then again spoke to herself: “Ah, I see, these are none other
than the girl wife, husband and child of whom Miriamne has been reading!
But what an improper legend at the bottom? ‘_A sword shall pierce through
thine own soul also!_’ A sword has no place in that happy group!” And
Rizpah still gazed at the charming presentment. Suddenly she started from
her seat. “What’s this?” she cried as she traced a dark cross made by
the shadow of the child’s outstretched arms and reaching from his feet
to the mother’s bending knees. “I have it now; the cross is the sword!
Some of the Nazarene heresy, the witchery of the ‘Old Clock Man!’” Rizpah
flung the picture from her as if it were a serpent. She thought she saw
a paramount duty, and without an instant of delay she hastened back to
Miriamne, this time in angry mood—Rizpah of Bozrah, the fanatical Nemesis
of heresy.

“Here, girl! Whence this book of devils!”

Miriamne, in fright, leaped from her couch, and Rizpah, laying hold of
her arm, half dragged the bewildered, trembling girl to the adjacent
apartment. “These?” imperiously questioned Rizpah, as she pointed
vehemently toward picture and manuscript lying together on the floor.

The maiden, overcome by the suddenness of the stormy outbreak, spoke
tremblingly, pleadingly:

“Oh, mother, forgive me if I’ve done wrong! Father Adolphus, the old—”

“Oh, yes, the old wizzard! he gave them to thee,” interrupted the mother.
“Enough! ’tis as I expected; the Christian’s doctrine of devils!”

Miriamne reached forth, mechanically, to take the denounced objects, but
Rizpah at once intercepted her, spurning them with her foot.

“Don’t touch the leprosy! To-morrow we’ll hire some Druses beggars to
burn them!”

“But, mother, they are not ours; we must return at least the painting; it
cost great labor!”

“Leave that to me! Now, further and finally for thee, rash girl,
I’ve commands. Listen! Thou art never again to meet or speak to that
hoary-headed old wizzard, Von Gombard.”

“But, mother—”

“No evasion nor compromise!”

“I can not treat the kind old man that way. He is so good, and all the
people, Jews and Gentiles, love him,” pleaded Miriamne.

“Enough! and, in brief, meet him or speak to him again, and I’ll disown
thee! I’d drive thee, daughter of mine though thou art, out of my home to
starvation and pray God to send all the plagues written in His book to
haunt thee, while thy life remained, rather than tolerate heresy!”

So saying, Rizpah fell upon her knees, as if even then to utter an
imprecation.

In terror the daughter ran to her, and shielding her eyes from the
parent’s anger-distorted countenance, she pitifully cried:

“Mother! Oh, mother! Don’t curse me! Save me! save me!”

The elder woman’s body swayed and dilated as if she were possessed of
some furious demon, checked and muzzled, but struggling to break forth.
Evidently the pathos of the daughter’s appeal touched some responding
chord of mercy, for the mother restrained herself and then suddenly arose
and swept out of the bed-chamber. And yet Miriamne was not reassured; she
felt the fascination of dread. With trembling her eyes were riveted on
the open door; her ears heard the heavy, stately, threatening, departing
footsteps, and great misery overwhelmed her. She felt, if she could not
express it, that the breakers of a mighty wrath were heaving and tossing
in that bosom on which she had hitherto rested when in pain or peril.
She knew the meanings of those wavy motions, so like those of the boa
retiring for renewed attack. She saw them passing up and down the form of
Rizpah as the latter went out, her eyes burning, her body dilating. She
had observed these things in her parent before, but never as now directed
toward herself.

In terror and anguish Miriamne fled out of the old Giant-house. There
was relief and a sense of getting more truly under the sheltering wings
of God in getting out under the serene canopy of heaven. So, often, the
grief-stricken seek solitude, absence from all that has crossed and
hurt, separation from all earthly, in a lonely appeal to the Holy and
Loving. And so these two women, bound to each other by the strongest
human ties, needing, because of their isolation, each other supremely;
after all, loving each other with a choice, tried love, willing each to
endure any cross, even unto death, for the other’s weal, and both anxious
to serve God loyally, went apart. They exemplified the cross-purposes
and misunderstandings that beset and mar life’s pilgrims. They needed
sorely, both of them, pilot and beacon; some one to inspire as well as
to exemplify all that is best in womanhood. The need was patent, but the
remedy but dimly discerned.




CHAPTER XXIII.

THE MISERERE AND THE EASTER ANTHEM.

“Under the shade of His mighty wings,
One by one
Are His secrets told,
One by one.
Lit by the rays of each morning sun,
Shall a new flower its petals unfold,
With its mystery hid in its heart of gold.”

“But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon
their heart. Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord the
veil shall be taken away.”—II Cor., 3:15.


Midnight and moonlight were in Bozrah, and midnight and moonlight were
in Miriamne’s heart as she wandered out into the city. She did not
see her way further than to know it must be some direction other than
toward her home. That place all her life hitherto the dearest spot on
earth, was become her dread. As she moved away from it she did not
look back. It seemed to her that there was an angry cloud enveloping
it; a cloud holding a furious thunderbolt. As she went on, she rapidly
passed through a series of painful feelings; those that naturally beset
the runaway girl. First she felt very reckless, then, surprised at
her recklessness, then very lonely as if every tie that bound her was
broken, and then affrighted as she thought of confronting the great,
strange, selfish world alone. A woman so young and so inexperienced; a
bird with half-fledged wings, thrust out of the parent nest into a storm;
altogether a pitiable creature. In the moonlight of her conscience,
after a time, she dimly discerned a line of duty. It seemed to her
that it were best for her to turn toward the church of Adolphus, and
she resolutely turned thither. Before the resolution she had walked
aimlessly; now with an aim and with some soul comfort. She did not have
power to analyze her feelings; had she had such power she might have
discerned the fact that she was turning toward something her reason told
her was very good, therefore the soul comfort came as the harbinger of
conversion. As yet the moonlight within, like that without, was not
strong enough to resolve the shadows in and about her. She knew, and
that alone, certainly, that she was miserable, wounded, bruised. So
storm-beaten, in a flight from the ancient Rizpah and her counterpart,
Rizpah of Bozrah, the maiden naturally turned toward the place where
there seemed rest, escape; the haven known to all the troubled and sick
of the Giant city. With a great throb of joy she at length drew nigh
the Church of Adolphus. All was silent about it; but its up-pointing
spire, emblem of eternal, aspiring hope, rest on a rock, stability—in
grand contrast with the grim ruins God’s revenges had scattered in dire
confusion all around, assured her. She remembered then that she had
heard some say that they had been blessed beyond all telling, in hours
of trouble, by the services of that sanctuary. She perceived that the
church, from spire to portal, was flooded with silvering moonlight,
while all beyond and around it was in shadows; then she wearily sank
down by a small porch near the great entrance. As she sank she moaned a
broken prayer: “Oh, God, take me!” Utterly overcome, she wished for a



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 21 of 40)