When Mary Walked The Earth, part 1, by Daniel A. Lord, S.J

Aside from the few tremendously significant actions and words of Mary recorded in the gospel story of her Son, we know all too little about her. But what we know is gracious, tender, queenly, wonderfully beautiful.
The episodes related in the following pages do not pretend to be historic. Perhaps they never happened. But we may be sure that episodes like them must have happened. For we know Mary best from her effect on history; and from what we have seen of her influence on the lives of mankind, and from what we know of the inspiration and power of her example, may we not say that incidents like these followed her in her path through life?


A Lovely Little Girl Looks Into His Heart

Before him, on his little table, stood neat stacks of gold and silver. Judean coins were there, and the beautiful coinage of Greece stood beside the stern face of Augustus on Roman silver. Back of him cooed his pigeons, rustling their wings against the bars of the wicker cages.
It had been a good day, and he eyed speculatively the throngs of pilgrims who passed up and down the Temple stair. Those keen city dwellers interested him very little. One was not quite safe in short-changing them. But those simple country folk who came with their coins tied in some corner of their clothing, and their hesitant eyes and blundering hands, they were the customers to his taste. For if he gave them a handful of coins, part Greek, part Syrian, part Roman, they nodded over them and went away afraid to protest, while he rubbed his hands and counted another slick profit.
Up the stairs toward his table and cages came an elderly man and his wife, plainly people of some obscure province, Galilee probably. He thought, as he watched their frightened eyes regarding the Temple porticos and the self-effacing way in which the old couple stepped aside to let others hurry by. The seller of pigeons spat contemptuously, and then, with almost a jerk, leaned forward.
Between the old couple, clinging to their hands, walked the most exquisite little girl, her bright blonde hair, rare enough in Jerusalem, escaping in errant curls from beneath her silken veil. Her wide, astonished eyes seemed filled with a thrilling light as they gazed with wonder on the beauty of God’s house, and her lips, beautifully formed and delicately red, opened in a happy smile.


“Their grandchild,” decided the seller, and he wondered how so plain a couple could be the forebears of so lovely a child.
As they came abreast of the table, the old man turned and spoke quietly to his wife. Then, carefully threading their way through the crowd, they came toward the seller’s table, leading with them the little girl, whose eyes now turned from the colonnades of the Temple to the soft-cooing doves in their cages.
“Doves for the sacrifice,” suggested the pigeon seller ingratiatingly.
“Two,” said the old man, fumbling with his ancient leather purse.
“None finer in Jerusalem,” chattered the pigeon seller, with a professional cheerfulness he used to distract and disarm his victims. “Spotless, unblemished, all white, this spring’s hatching,” and he lifted two pigeons from the cage with practiced skill, “and cheap, very cheap.”
The old man took the pigeons gingerly and handed them to his wife, and fumbled again for his coins.
“Ah a beautiful grandchild!” said the pigeon seller, still bent on distracting his customer when the moment for change-making came.
“Our daughter, Mary,” corrected the woman, with a touch of motherly pride.
“So?” exclaimed the seller. “Never have I seen a fairer.” As he spoke, the woman set one of the pigeons on the outstretched arm of the little girl, who clasped the dove to her and stood with curved cheek nestling against its white feathers. Quite trustingly the dove settled down in her arms, snuggling warmly against her.


“Here,” said the old man, holding out a golden coin, “is the smallest coin I have.”
It was the opportunity for which the seller had waited. With skilful hands he assembled from his stack of coins a curious mixture of little pieces, Greek, Syrian, Roman. Judean, and ostentatiously dropped them one by one into the outstretched hand of the buyer, keeping up a rapid chatter as he did so. From under his long eyelashes he watched the guileless face of the old man for the moment when he felt it would be safe to stop counting.
“There,” the pigeon seller said, stopping five counts short. “Your change, exact and honest.”
“Thank you,” said the old man, putting the coins into his purse.
“Come, Anna. Come, Mary.” Then, in a sudden burst of confidence, he turned to the pigeon seller. “Today we offer our little daughter to service in the Temple. It is at proud day for us and a sad one, for she is our only child.”
Up the Temple stairs the trio moved, while the pigeon seller gazed after them with a troubled expression. Giving that lovely child to the Temple! And their only child at that! The fools!
They reached the landing above him, and then as the old couple passed on before her, the little girl turned and looked back full into his eyes. With her pigeon held to her heart, she gazed at him, pity, rebuke, sorrow in her childlike but bright expression.

With a cry the man leaped from the table, snatched up two handfuls of coins, dropping as he did so pieces that slipped unregarded between his fingers. Up the stairs he dashed and flung himself at the feet of the child.
“See,” he cried, pouring his coins into her dress. “Gold and silver for you.”
The old couple turned to regard him in startled surprise.
“Why this?” asked the old man.
Furtively the pigeon seller rose. He could not say that he was making reparation for dishonesty. He hardly knew that the eyes of the child had lifted his soul above his money tables. He groped for words.
“In the Temple-she will need this-for her comfort- God’s service-”
“Thank you,” murmured the old man, bowing as one who conferred rather than received a favour. “You are very kind.”
But the eyes of the child were speaking to the pigeon seller the silent gratitude that he alone heard.


A Youthful Sceptic Sees a Woman and Believes in His Own Soul
Under the rippling silken curtain stretched above the roof of the white Judean house the Sadducee sat and talked brilliantly. Young Benjamin sat at the feet of this wise old man, watched the slim wrinkled fingers as he pulled his grey beard or beat a quiet tattoo against the heavy silk of his robe, watched his shrewd eyes as they grew suddenly brilliant when he uttered some startling argument, and felt, as youth will feel in the presence of a magnetic personality, that there was no answer for his keen, brutal reasoning.
“We Sadducees, my boy,” the old man summed up, laying his hand upon the shoulder of the listening boy with that gracious familiarity that lends so much intimacy to conversation, “have long since given up what you call the supernatural. Your heaven is here, 0 Israel. Your immortality lies in the memory of your deeds, the strength and beauty of your children, the nobility of your law, the imperishable grandeur of your nation. If there be a Jehovah, he dwells in remote aloofness, regarding his creatures as you, my boy, might regard the shadowy animals you form with your fingers between a taper and a white wall. And Jehovah grows tired of us as you grow tired of your badly shaped shadows, until one day He pulls back His hand, and poof! there is nothing left but the meaningless world, or, if you prefer, the blank white wall.


“Life, my boy, is in the important present. Trust your own hands and brain more than you trust a remote Jehovah.
Work so hard that you have no time left to pray. Pack this life with all it can hold of joy and work and achievement. Use it to the full; for, when it is gone, spent out golden day by golden day, there is no other. We are creatures of time whose God has forgotten us and whose destination is the grave.”
“And the Messiah?” questioned the boy eagerly.
“A delusion. We have waited as our fathers have waited, but He will never come.”
Benjamin arose and bowed low before the aged scholar who gave him a heavily ringed hand to place against his forehead. Then, slipping down the stair from the housetop Benjamin walked rapidly through the warm, narrow Nazarene street. But as he walked he felt that something very precious had gone out of the day, killed by the keen rapier words of the Sadducee. The world seemed suddenly lonesome, as if the great Jehovah was no longer there. He gazed forward into his own life, through the years-long years, he hoped-he had yet to live; and then he saw the shadow of a white, rounded, repulsive sepulchre. He stumbled against a projecting rock, and the instinctive prayer for protection, the prayer he had learned from his mother, leaped from his lips, but he crushed it back ruthlessly, smiling sadly that tradition and training had for a moment made him forget new, bright truths.
Almost he wished he had not gone to visit that learned Sadducee dwelling in Nazareth for a short rest after busy Jerusalem. His faith had been a precious thing and now he felt that it was gone and he stood alone with his dead faith as one standing above a dead friend murderously struck down.


Thanks to the powers of fate or whatever ruled this meaningless world, there was the present matter of that carpenter his father had commissioned him to engage. In the rough details of immediate business which he must discuss with Joseph the carpenter, he could forget that in his heart something lay dead. He turned up a little byway and saw ahead of him the white wall of Joseph’s house, shared, he knew, by Mary, Joseph’s affianced wife. Back of the dwelling was Joseph’s shop, and to reach it he must enter the main living room and pass across the little courtyard. The sun was high in the heavens and in his eagerness to escape his own thoughts he had walked faster than he was aware, so that the sweat poured freely from his forehead as he reached the doorway. In the shadow of the little arch he stopped, wiped his face with his silken scarf, and opened his cloak to the breeze that blew weakly in the street.
Inside were voices, low and strangely solemn. Two people were speaking; there was a resonant yet reverent male voice and the answering voice of a woman. But even had he cared to eavesdrop, the voices were too hushed and low to carry distinctly through the rough wood of the door.


Slightly cooled and eager to plunge into the plans he must discuss with Joseph, he raised his hand to knock. But before his knuckles touched the door he paused; for the woman s voice had taken on a new quality, depth, vibrancy, fullness, and the words came to him with astonishing clearness.
“Behold,” she was saying, “the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word.” Then deep, unbroken silence.
Benjamin knocked. He heard the quiet movement of sandaled feet across the floor; the door opened gently and he looked into the interior.
He had expected to see an almost darkened room, for in the hot afternoons curtains would cover the windows. Yet, though his quick eye saw the curtains carefully drawn, he got the impression of a room recently filled with light, almost blazing with light, not the hot sunlight of Galilee, but another light that he felt rather than saw. It could hardly have anything to do with this young, simple woman standing before him, though he saw that her eyes glowed with the glory of another world and there seemed to be about her form a kind of fading radiance. His glance searched the room for the other voice. It was empty; and even as he looked, the light seemed to fade and cool shadows to replace it.