Copyright
A. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) Walsh.

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

. (page 22 of 40)
Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 22 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


moment for death’s release; and death’s similitude, fainting, sometimes
sent in mercy, came over her. How long she lay unconscious, she knew
not. She was suddenly aroused by the stroke of a muffled bell; she
opened her eyes and beheld forms gliding out of the darkness into the
chapel. For a moment she felt a superstitious fear that chilled her. She
vaguely remembered that that bell had been wont to toll thus solemnly
when there was a funeral. Simultaneous with the thought she questioned,
Was she herself dead? But she quickly collected her thoughts and then
comprehended that there was to be a midnight service in the chapel. She
remembered that Father Adolphus was wont to have such, at intervals. She
longed to taste the joys within of which she had heard, and was at the
same time restrained, lest by entering she should in some way part from
her mother and the faith of her childhood forever. Conscience and desire
waged war with each other, and the girl was too much excited to stand
still or to reason clearly. She, therefore, mechanically moved through
the open doors with the throng, out of the darkness into the light.
Once within the place the grateful sense of peace and the splendors of
the various appointments, beyond all she had ever before experienced,
engrossed all her thoughts. The lofty arches, the well wrought pillars,
the niches, in which were here and there saintly paintings, the lights,
disposed so as to produce an impression of seriousness and rest, the
hum of subdued voices, all came to her as balm. At the east she beheld
a silver altar, velvet draped; on either side of it lofty columns with
golden plinths and capitals; just back of the altar, in a light that made
the face of the presentment more beautiful, she discerned the image of a
woman, splendidly robed and jewel-crowned. For a moment she thought she
was looking upon one living, for the crowned woman was so beautiful, so
much a part of the place, and seemed so inviting. She contrasted her,
in mind, with the terrible picture of Rizpah. Just then, with little
persuasion, she could have run toward the woman, back of the altar, and
plead for sympathy. The feeling was momentary. Little by little the truth
dawned upon her, and she thought, “this represents the beautiful Mary of
Father Von Gombard.” Then the moonlight within the maiden’s soul began
to change into dawn. She gazed and gazed, and as she was so engaged, her
thoughts took wing for heaven and her soul cried within itself as a babe
for its mother. She knew not her way, but she knew she needed and yearned
for a guide as pure as heaven and as serious as God. Her meditations
were interrupted when she perceived the place growing darker about her,
the forms of the congregation now becoming like so many moving shadows.
All around her bowed their heads as in prayer, and, impressed by the
solemnity of the place, she did likewise. There was a long silence. The
hush of death was over the place, the only sign of life the stealthy
movements of a tall, dark-robed personage, who glided about the chancel.
The tower bell tolled again, once, twice, thrice; its muffled tones, as
they died away, being prolonged, then caught up and borne onward with
organ notes which filled the trembling air with entrancing melody. Then
the organ tones softened and died away into subdued minors. “How like the
sighings of autumn evening breezes, before a rain,” thought Miriamne.
The place again was full of melody, the organ being reinforced by lutes
and dulcimers, played by unseen hands. But the worshippers were silent;
all bowed, apparently, in prayerful expectation. It was all new and
exceedingly impressive to the maiden, and she was carried along by the
spirit of the hour.

The draped figure passed down from behind the altar-lattice and moved,
on tip-toe, from one to another of the worshipers. Miriamne was curious,
yet frightened. “What if he came to me?” The question she asked herself
made her tremble. If it were the priest, she was sure he would be very
kind and yet how would she explain her absence at that hour from home?
She was alert to hear the words he spoke to others near her, and when she
did, she took courage. They seemed just such as she needed. She knew the
voice; it was that of Father Adolphus, in the tenderness and triumph of
one filled with unearthly hopes and heavenly sympathy. The cadence of his
voice accorded with the plaintive tones of the organ. Miriamne’s heart
fluttered like a caged bird, back and forth, from yearnings to fears,
as the priest drew nearer and nearer to her. She yearned to hear spoken
to herself his balm-like benedictions; she feared, lest recognizing
her, he should reprove. He seemed about to pass, as if not perceiving
her. Now more intensely she yearned and dreaded than before. She could
not restrain herself, and so she sobbed aloud like a child in pain. The
priest tenderly placed his hand on her head and softly said: “_If we
confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse us
from all iniquity._”

“Oh, Father Adolphus,” she sobbed, “is this for me?”

The priest started, but quickly recovered himself, and again spoke in
the same tone as before, his voice rising in accord with a triumphant
strain of the music: “_He died that we might live!_” Miriamne clasped and
passionately kissed his hand.

The place had become darker, little by little; the organ tones meanwhile
growing deeper and more solemn, while voices from an unseen choir
blended with them. Miriamne, recognizing, from the words of the singers,
the penitential Psalms, followed the worship with deepened interest
from the fifty-first to the fifty-seventh of the sacred songs. They
expressed the pains and tempests of her own soul as they voiced sublimely
sin-beseeching pardon. The Christian and Jew were for the moment made
akin. The man at the organ was a master of his art, and while handling
the keys of his instrument, he also played on the hearts of his hearers.
He was aiming to reproduce Calvary, its scenes, emotions and meanings,
and he succeeded. The devout assembly, following the motive and movement
of the composition, was led mentally to realize the journey from the
Judgment Hall to the Crucifixion. There were measured, mournful, dragging
tones; Jesus bearing his heavy cross; then followed discord and confused
uproar, the voices of a mob. Later on there were dirges and silences,
followed, as it were, by blows and ugly cries. The nailed hands, the
uplifted cross and the sneers of those who passing wagged their heads,
were all revived to the imagination. With these sounds, from the first,
there ran along a sustained minor strain, sometimes nearly obliterated,
at other times ruling. It was as mournful as the sigh of the autumn winds
amid the dying leaves and night rains. In the color and movement of that
minor there was feelingly expressed the deep, poignant, undemonstrative
sorrow of the mother that followed the thorn-crowned and scourged Son
to his martyrdom. Then came a long silence, broken only by the fleeting
whispers here and there. The worshipers were in earnest prayer. They
were at the cross, as the friends of Jesus, in earnest communings.
Again the organ broke in on the silence; there was a rush of air as if
some one passed in rapid, terrified flight, followed by a sound like
swiftly departing footsteps; the fleeing disciples came to the minds
of the worshipers. Then the organ tones deepened to the rumblings of
approaching thunders—heralds of a climax of catastrophies, while above
the rumblings a solitary, piercing voice, which ended in a thrilling,
agonizing cry: “_My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!_” Following
this came peal upon peal from the organ; louder and louder; discord and
confusion; ending in mighty crashings. The rocking earth; the earthquake;
the rent veil—all the tragedy of Cavalry—was presented in awful realism
to the minds of the kneeling worshipers. Every light had been quenched,
the temple within was as dark as a tomb, and not a sound could be heard
but moans and penitential weepings. To one any way superstitious and not
knowing the intent of the presentment, the whole would have seemed very
like the realm of the lost, filled with damned souls, making pitiful
last appeals to mercy; but to the worshipers there came a vision of a
stark, dead form on a cross, standing out vividly against the darkness
of Calvary around that cross the amazed, condemned crucifiers and a
few disciples, the latter whispering about the burial. The realism was
oppressive and some present cried out, as if by the bier of a loved one,
while some fainted away. But the Healer was there. Father Adolphus, with
a voice full of tears, with the pathos of Him that went down to preach
hope to “the spirits in prison,” spoke to the penitents of peace, light
and glory through faith. As the old Missioner went from one to another
the lights of the chapel, one after another, reappeared. Presently the
aged consoler stood by Miriamne: “Hast thou felt the power of the Cross,
my child?”

“Oh, Father Adolphus, I do not know; I only know I’m very wretched!”

“‘Godly sorrow worketh repentance’; but thou wert as happy as a bird thou
thoughtst and saidst a few days ago?”

“I was a bird—a girl then! I’m a woman now. I’ve lived years in hours.”

“Any sudden trouble?”

“Oh, yes, a tempest and tempests.”

“Possess me of all, daughter.”

“I can not. It’s every thing. I seem so useless and nobody loves me!”

“Thou art too young to be morbid and art greatly beloved by ONE.”

“Oh, I can not come to Him. I’m under His ban; I do not honor my parents.
How can I? One, my father, I never knew. I’ve seen him through my
mother’s eyes, and to despise. Now I am afraid of her, and my terror is
poisoning the love I once felt for her. Oh, I’m miserable, lost! Father,
Father, save me!” And the wretched girl flung her arms passionately about
the old priest.

“Ah, girl, I can not; but there is One that can save.”

“Save, save me—one so lost?”

“He is a ‘Prince and a Saviour.’”

“I do not know Him. He can not love me, and one must love me to save me;
I’m so needy and wicked.”

“Well said, and He is love. Only believe.”

“I don’t know how to believe.”

“Like a poor, sick babe, all need, thou, amid thy weaknesses, hast power
at least to cry.”

“Cry? What shall I cry?”

“‘Help thou mine unbelief.’”

Slowly, by wisely simple gospel-counsels, the aged teacher lead the
penitent girl Christward. As they communed the congregation departed,
and an attendant lighted the lamps. Presently the music of the organ
again broke forth; but now in cheerful and triumphant strains. Miriamne
listened, and as she did, a change came over her countenance. Her dawn
was coming.

“Art looking up, daughter?”

“This music is like spring morning melodies, and I’m singing to it, in
soul, I think.”

“It is the morning song of souls; the angel’s greeting to Mary. Observe
the words; first the ‘Hail Mary’ before the wondrous birth; then the
serene assurance of the mourning mother at the grave, ‘He is not here, He
has risen.’”

“Ah, Adolphus, how blessed are you Christians in a religion all mercy,
all songs, all love, and all nearness to God!”

“‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.’”

“I would I could hear Him say as much to me; but I can not go, come, nor
do any thing else; not even stay away; I’m a bit of wind-drifted down!”

“Come all ye heavy laden,” measuredly replied the priest.

“Oh, if there were some one to bear me onward; blind and weak as I am!”

“He carries the lambs in His bosom!”

“Alas, I feel myself cowering away from His Holiness, when I attempt to
approach Him alone!”

“All to Him must go alone, in prayer as in death. He meets with a
plenteous mercy the confiding ones who come by sorrows’ thorny path,
as He will meet the needy in judgment who have only faith’s plea. Fear
not to go alone; solitude has its benefits, and He is sole accuser or
excuser. The terms of His rebuke are eternal secrets, as are the terms of
His forgiveness. They lie alone, between the Blesser and the blessed.”

“Is the lovely woman there, your Mary?”

“Yes, child.”

“And she was the mother of this Saviour?”

“Yes.”

“And was He like her?”

“He is, eternal; the ‘I Am’—not was nor shall be—always.”

“Oh, yes; but is He like the woman?”

“In my soul I so believe, to my joy; for she was godly, therefore,
God-like.”

“Then I can love Him, trust Him, and I’m sure He’ll pity me, at least.”

“Amen,” piously ejaculated Father Adolphus. Then he said: “Now child,
rest; it’s too late to go home. My sister, yonder, will care for thee
till morning, and then thou must hie to thy home. Thou yet mayst be its
peace-maker and blesser.”

Easter-tide came. All nature was serene and seemed to recognize the
memorial of holy, happy association. Father Adolphus was astir early to
ply his industry of mercy for the suffering. “Poor, unhappy land, and
unhappy because so blind! Oh, man, man, how thine eyes are holden, while
fatlings, birds and flowers rejoice!”

“Ah, unbenumbed by sinning, they, like the cattle in Bethlehem’s stable,
are first to see the Saviour born of woman. ‘Praise ye the Lord, beasts
and all cattle, creeping things and flying fowl. They shall not hurt
nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the
knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.’” Thus soliloquized
the old priest as he passed toward well-known haunts of misery in the
Giant City.

Miriamne was called to a late breakfast by the kindly sister of Adolphus.
The aged woman said little, but every act seemed freighted with motherly
interest, and was like balm to the heart conscious chiefly of loneliness
and wretchedness. The maiden longed to have the elder woman solicit her
confidence, but the latter did not respond to the mute, though manifest
desire. “It is better so. God’s work is best done in an hour like this,
when He alone is left to searching and counsel.” So thought this aged
minister. Experience under Father Adolphus had given her this wisdom.

The coming of evening brought to the little religious house its master
all cheerful, yet well wearied by a day of ministering for God.

“Art here yet, daughter?” was his first greeting.

“Yes; where else should I be? I’m friendless, lost, unhappy; even to a
vague longing for death; but I’m frightened at that longing, since it
seems as if I was as friendless in Heaven as on earth. Oh, it’s awful to
be a two-fold orphan!”

Just then the church-bell rang forth a merry peal.

Miriamne looked a question, and the old priest continued: “Hark, it’s the
pæan of peace, declaring that the Day Spring from on high has visited all
those in the shadow of death.”

“Another service?”

“Yes, the best of all. We cling to the hours of this day and battle night
away in joy, thus declaring our hope in the resurrection, the end of all
nights. Listen, that’s my organ, the one I myself made.”

Miriamne listened, and there was wafted to her an Easter anthem; at
intervals containing the sentence: “Thou that takest away the sins of the
world have mercy.”

As they passed into the chapel, the maiden remarked: “There are more
women here than there were at the other service?”

“The other celebrated death; the chief pain-maker of woman’s life; for
they live in love whose ties are constantly sundered by man’s last enemy.
They are allured by the beautiful things, the joys, the hopes of our
Easter service. It proclaims eternal victory over the destroyer.”

“How beautiful the woman’s form back of the altar, good Father, to-night.”

“Our moods within appear to us on objects without. So strangely the
Kingdom of Heaven, beginning in the soul, spreads everywhere. It is
natural, though to think that the resurrection time brought all joy to
the childless mother: to this one as it did and does bring a thousand
times to other mothers, like her bereaved.”

The Easter service went onward, a succession of joys; the march of a
pilgrim army with the goals in view; the triumph of truth, the crowning
of life, the final discomfiture of death. Miriamne brightened as the
service advanced; then came a fullness of joy; then a reaction and she
finally fell into a sleep akin to a trance. It was the resting of the
wounded on the way of healing. There was a Divine overpouring and a
babe-like sleep of perfect trust; from this the voice of the priest
aroused her!

“Miriamne seems to rest.”

“Oh, such a dream! I followed the songs to the sky and wished my body had
wings. God lifted me up and I slept, dreaming myself into His presence. I
thought I was in heaven.”

“Thou art near it, child.”

“Oh, this wonderful calm! What makes me so happy?”

“Hast thou any token?”

“I do not know: I murmured as the people sang these words: ‘_I know that
my Redeemer liveth_;’ as I murmured that, every thing, got brighter, and
I felt no more under the yoke and load!”

“He is thy Vindicator. ’Tis well.”

Then tears coursed down the old man’s face.

And so the girl that fled out of her home, away from the phantom of
Rizpah of the ancients, away from her mother; a pilgrim; all wants,
all yearnings, in a few brief hours, had found a city of refuge, an
everlasting hope and was in soul serenely resting.

[Illustration: By Mengelburg.

JESUS AT THE AGE OF TWELVE WITH MARY AND JOSEPH ON THEIR WAY TO
JERUSALEM.]




CHAPTER XXIV.

A HEROINE’S PILGRIMAGE.

“There is a vision, in the heart of each,
Of justice, mercy, wisdom, tenderness
To wrong and pain and knowledge of the cure;
And these embodied in a woman’s form,
That best transmits them pure as first received.”—Robert Browning.

“Behold, the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to
thy word.”—MARY.


Miriamne, the day after her conversion, at evening, was sitting in
the portal of the church at Bozrah, musing. “Oh, how I thank Father
Adolphus for showing me the way to this peace!” The western sky, to the
maiden’s rapt imagination, seemed very like the gate of Heaven, and in
her meditations she exclaimed as if talking to those in glory, yet near
to her: “Mother of my Saviour, I need a mother! Thou and I, two women,
loved of the same Lord, shall we not evermore be friends?” Then the stars
glittered through the fading sun light like night-lamps, set along the
parapets of that far off city, and the maiden felt as if heaven’s doors
were being shut. She was oppressed with a sense of being left alone,
and thereupon cried out, “Oh, Jesus, Jesus, do not leave me here in the
dark; Oh! thou mother, sainted and happy, may I not be where thou art
until morning?” The cry or prayer of the girl, having in it much of the
poet, little of the skilled theologian, was one likely to be censured
by those adept in stately forms, and yet it was very natural. Miriamne
was but an infant in experience and had yet to learn that after the
resurrection came Pentecost; then the Ascension. Steps like these are in
the believer’s experience; conversion is a rising from the dead to be
followed by the assuring work of the Holy Spirit, then Heaven. But the
soul quickened from the charnel-house of sin and inducted, not only into
a new inner life but into a new fellowship, hungers for more and more.
Hence, it is a common thing for the young convert to wish to die, and be
away from life’s turmoils and defilements at once and with the glorified,
immediately, forever. It is as if the disciple would pass at once from
the sepulcher directly up the Mount of Ascension. In this spirit Mary
Magdalene pressed forward to embrace to her human heart the newly risen
Saviour that morning when he tenderly restrained her. There was something
for her to be and do before the final rest on the Divine bosom, in
unending rapture. “_Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended_,” as if He
would say, “I myself, have other work yet, before the eternal gates are
lifted up for my triumphal entrance as the King of Glory.” “_Go to my
brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father._”
The master words were, “Go;” “say.” The load Jesus put on His followers
was the same in kind, though infinitely less, that He took on Himself.
Some way it was love burdening with blessing, for He that in dying agony
sent the Rose of His heart, Mary, to the home of John instead of at once
to Paradise, knew surely that then for her that was best. “To go” and
“tell” was best for Magdalene, as to stay and work for a time is best for
all:

So Miriamne’s prayer, though so worded that it would have been censured
by the learned churchmen, was heard in heaven, and He that said: “My
peace I leave with you,” ministered, all unseen by human eye, to that
lamb, bleating alone amid the dark giant castles of Bashan and the darker
castles of fears that hover not far from each new-born of His Kingdom.
She passed from repining, from morbidly wishing to die and from thoughts
solely of her own weal, to the second stage of experience; that stage,
where the young convert is influenced with a burning zeal to tell of the
blessings found and thereby win others for the Saviour. Miriamne soon
felt desire inexpressible to run and tell others of her joy. Then her
mind recurred to her father, living somewhere far to the westward, just
beneath where she had fancied the gates of heaven were a little while
ago. “No, no; I cannot go yet! I must stay here and do something. Oh, I’d
be ashamed to go to heaven and leave my father, my mother, my brothers,
my people in their misery!” As she thus spoke she pulled her hand quickly
down by her side. The motion like to one pulling away from some leading
influence. A voice at hand spoke: “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall
neither slumber nor sleep.”

Miriamne, with a slight startled exclamation, turned to see whence the
voice and with joy beheld Father Adolphus.

“Oh, dear Father, I’m glad you came this way! I want to tell you above
all others how happy you made me.”

Solemnly and tenderly the old man replied: “‘Not unto us, oh Lord; not
unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth’s
sake.’”

“Yes, He has done it; but you helped, good teacher; and I am so happy!
Oh, I do not know myself! I feel so changed. I’m growing wiser, happier
and stronger every minute.”

“If so, then, He that called thee, daughter, had a purpose.”

“I know it; see it; feel it. I’m called to help my people; to bring
together Sir Charleroy and Rizpah.”

“Say ‘my parents’; it’s more filial.”

“Yes, but it’s so strange. I call them in my mind now all the time by
their names. It seems as if I belonged to another family; that of Jesus,
Mary and the Angels.”

“A child of the Kingdom, indeed! When thy parents are converted, the
family tie will be revived. Thou dost feel the love of heaven; the great
eternal family bond, as Christ when he said: ‘My mother and my brethren
are these which hear the word of God and do it.’”

“But if I hope to bring my parents together I must go first to my father
and persuade him. I know my mother will object to the journey. Can I
disobey her and still please God?”

“Ask God. I have for thee, and already see thy way. I have already acted
in this matter.”

“I can not forget the law in that I learn that ‘He that setteth lightly
by his father or his mother is cursed.’ Among our noble ancients, the
Maccabees, the disobedient child was even stoned to death.”

“But thy salvation puts thee under the Gospel, although, under the Law
even parents had duties; they were forbidden to make their children walk
through the idolatrous fires. What says Jesus to thee?”

“I do not know whether it be His spirit or not; yet all the time I hear a
voice within me saying: ‘These twain shall be one.’”

“I see thy soul abhors this actual divorcement of thy parents. Oh, how
some play hide and seek with their consciences around forms as these do;
not comforting but hating each other; not bearing together their common
burdens; wide seas between them, yet fancying they have violated no law
of God, because they have not asked the law of man to do what it never



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 22 of 40)