So this is what you get for saying yes.
The fruit of your body, the apple of your eye, bloodied, broken, gasping his last breaths while the brutal world, uncaring, continues its business.
Once, an angel visited a girl, its bright wings overshadowing her innocence. Dazzled by divinity, she said yes, and innocence departed. She endured the doubts, the taunts, the suspicion of her neighbors, because she had said yes. She risked being discarded by her fiancé and losing all social status, because she said yes. She carried the body and blood of God’s son, holding him safe until she could deliver him, her great and unique gift, her child, God incarnate, the hope of the world, because she said yes.
This girl once sang a defiant song of triumph, spellbound by the angel’s glory, affirmed in solidarity with cousin Elizabeth, fulfilled in the swelling that promised a healthy baby. My soul magnifies the Lord, she sang. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Where is that savior today? As Jesus croaks his last words, words of abandonment, from the Cross, Mary is left to wonder about broken promises, the promise God made to Abraham and to his seed for ever. How have the mighty been cast down? Where do the rich go hungry while the poor are filled with good things? This is not the vision the angel offered, this shame and loneliness and pain.
What mother hasn’t known the secret grief of giving birth, the letting go of the most intimate bond, the ache of seeing the child grow up and away, reaching out to stretch, to risk, to fail or succeed without her gentle hands to steady, to caress, to heal?
And for Mary, now, all that love and care and grief comes to this, the bloody Cross, the jeering soldiers, the crushing of joy and hope, ah such a hope.
The Syrian mother cradles her child, poisoned by gas. The Sudanese mother buries the baby whom she could not nurse because she herself has nothing to eat. The Baltimore, or St Louis, or Atlanta mother screams her grief at city hall’s door, her teenager lying cold and still in the city morgue with police bullets in him.
We say yes to new life, but the world has other ideas. Our children are exposed to danger, to injustice, to the brokenness of humanity and we cannot protect them. But we can stand with the mothers in their grief. We can hold accountable those in positions of power. We can engage in the vocation of the church, to bring about reconciliation among all people and with our God. And even as we join Mary in her agony, we can remember that this is not the end of the story. God’s promises are sure, and all generations have and will call Mary blessed. Her son is broken today, but he will rise again. He will defeat the principalities and powers, he will bring new hope to those who are in despair, he will light the darkness for multitudes yet to come. The lowly shall be lifted up and God’s mercy will endure.
All this shall come to pass, because she once carried the body and blood, because she once risked her future for an angel’s word, because she once, in innocence and gentle obedience, said yes.
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges