Soon and very soon, we will contemplate the Gospel reading for Christmas Eve. In this text from Luke, we will read of the journey of Mary and Joseph and of the birth of Jesus in a manger; we will read of shepherds and angels and glory. At the last, we will catch sight of the contemplative Mary. It is the briefest glimpse: “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” Tucked into the very end of the text, it nearly eludes our notice. Yet more and more I find myself thinking that the heart of this story lies here, in the way that Mary gathers up all the pieces of the story and holds them within herself.
But not yet, not quite; a day or two still before we turn to this tale of glory that gives way to a space of stillness. For now, let us open a different window onto Mary.
In the book of Revelation, in chapter 12, John tells of a vision of a celestial woman who labors to give birth to a child as a dragon waits, intent upon destroying the child. Across the centuries, many interpreters have viewed this as an image of Mary. While the text itself does not confirm this, the story of the sun-garbed woman struggling to give birth certainly resonates with the tale of the mother of Christ. And so, on this Advent night, I offer this image that emerged as I contemplated this passage many years ago…
Images (above and on front-page mastheads): Clothed With The Sun by Jan Richardson.
Words by Jan Richardson.