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Chapter 62 - Suzannah of Nazareth: Of the Youth and Manhood of Jesus
I KNEW MARY the mother of Jesus, before she became the wife of Joseph the carpenter, when we were both still unwedded.
In those days Mary would behold visions and hear voices, and she would speak of heavenly ministers who visited her dreams.
And the people of Nazareth were mindful of her, and they observed her going and her coming. And they gazed upon her brows and spaces in her steps.
But some said she was possessed. They said this because she would go only upon her own errands.
I deemed her old while she was young, for there was a harvest in her blossoming and ripe fruit in her spring.
She was born and reared amongst us yet she was like an alien from the North Country. In her eyes there was always the astonishment of one not yet familiar with our faces.
And she was as haughty as Miriam of old who marched with her brothers form the Nile to the wilderness.
Then Mary was betrothed to Joseph the carpenter.
When Mary was big with Jesus she would walk among the hills and return at eventide with loveliness and pain in her eyes.
And when Jesus was born I was told that Mary said to her mother, "I am but a tree unpruned. See you to this fruit." Martha the midwife heard her.
After three days I visited her. And there was wonder in her eyes, and her breasts heaved, and her arm was around her first-born like the shell that holds the pearl.
We all loved Mary's babe and we watched Him, for there was warmth in His being and He throbbed with the pace of His life.
The seasons passed, and He became a boy full of laughter and little wanderings. None of us knew what He would do for He seemed always outside of our race. But He was never rebuked though He was venturous and over-daring.
He played with the other children rather than they with Him.
When He was twelve years old, one day He led a blind man across the brook to the safety of the open road.
And in gratitude the blind man asked Him, "Little boy, who are you?"
And He answered, "I am not a little boy. I am Jesus."
And the blind man said, "Who is your father?"
And He answered, "God is my father."
And the blind man laughed and replied, "Well said, my little boy. But who is your mother?"
And Jesus answered, "I am not your little boy. And my mother is the earth."
And the blind man said, "Then behold, I was led by the Son of God and the earth across the stream."
And Jesus answered, "I will lead you wherever you would go, and my eyes will accompany your feet."
And He grew like a precious palm tree in our gardens.
When He was nineteen He was as comely as a hart, and His eyes were like honey and full of the surprise of day.
And upon His mouth there was the thirst of the desert flock for the lake.
He would walk the fields alone and our eyes would follow Him, and the eyes of all the maidens of Nazareth. But we were shy of Him.
Love is forever shy of beauty, yet beauty shall forever be pursued by love.
Then the years bade Him speak in the temple and in the gardens of Galilee.
And at times Mary followed Him to listen to His words and to hear the sound of her own heart. But when He and those who loved Him went down to Jerusalem she would not go.
For we at the North Country are often mocked in the streets of Jerusalem, even when we go carrying our offerings to the temple.
And Mary was too proud to yield to the South Country.
And Jesus visited other lands in the east and in the west. We knew not what lands He visited, yet our hearts followed Him.
But Mary awaited Him upon her threshold and every eventide her eyes sought the road for His home-coming.
Yet upon His return she would say to us, "He is too vast to be my Son, too eloquent for my silent heart. How shall I claim Him?"
It seemed to us that Mary could not believe that the plain had given birth to the mountain; in the whiteness of her heart she did not see that the ridge is a pathway to the summit.
She knew the man, but because He was her Son she dared not know Him.
And on a day when Jesus went to the lake to be with the fishermen she said to me, "What is man but this restless being that would rise from the earth, and who is man but a longing that desires the stars?
"My son is a longing. He is all of us longing for the stars.
"Did I say my son? May God forgive me. Yet in my heart I would be His mother."
Now, it is hard to tell more of Mary and her Son, but though there shall be husks in my throat, and my words shall reach you like cripples on crutches, I must needs relate what I have seen and heard.
It was in the youth of the year when the red anemones were upon the hills that Jesus called His disciples saying to them, "Come with me to Jerusalem and witness the slaying of the lamb for the passover."
Upon the selfsame day Mary came to my door and said, "He is seeking the Holy City. Will you come and follow Him with me and the other women?"
And we walked the long road behind Mary and her son till we reached Jerusalem. And there a company of men and women hailed us at the gate, for His coming had been heralded to those who loved Him.
But upon that very night Jesus left the city with His men.
We were told that He had gone to Bethany.
And Mary stayed with us in the inn, awaiting His return.
Upon the eve of the following Thursday He was caught without the walls, and was held prisoner.
And when we heard He was a prisoner, Mary uttered not a word, but there appeared in her eyes the fulfillment of that promised pain and joy which we had beheld when she was but a bride in Nazareth.
She did not weep. She only moved among us like the ghost of a mother who would not bewail the ghost of her son.
We sat low upon the floor but she was erect, walking up and down the room.
She would stand beside the window and gaze eastward, and then with the fingers of her two hands brush back her hair.
At dawn she was still standing among us, like a lone banner in the wilderness wherein there are no hosts.
We wept because we knew the morrow of her son; but she did not weep for she knew also what would befall Him.
Her bones were of bronze and her sinews of the ancient elms, and her eyes were like the sky, wide and daring.
Have you heard a thrush sing while its nest burns in the wind?
Have you seen a woman whose sorrow is too much for tears, or a wounded heart that would rise beyond its own pain?
You have not seen such a woman, for you have not stood in the presence of Mary; and you have not been enfolded by the Mother Invisible.
In that still moment when the muffled hoofs of silence beat upon the breasts of the sleepless, John the young son of Zebedee, came and said: "Mary Mother, Jesus is going forth. Come, let us follow Him."
And Mary laid her hand upon John's shoulder and they went out, and we followed them.
When we came to the Tower of David we saw Jesus carrying His cross. And there was a great crowd about Him.
And two other men were also carrying their crosses.
And Mary's head was held high, and she walked with us after her son. And her step was firm.
And behind her walked Zion and Rome, ay, the whole world, to revenge itself upon one free Man.
When we reached the hill, He was raised high upon the cross.
And I looked at Mary. And her face was not the face of a woman bereaved. It was the countenance of the fertile earth, forever giving birth, forever burying her children.
Then to her eyes came the remembrance of His childhood, and she said aloud, "My son, who is not my son; man who once visited my womb, I glory in your power. I know that every drop of blood that runs down from your hands shall be the well-stream of a nation.
"You die in this tempest even as my heart once died in the sunset, and I shall now sorrow."
At that moment I desired to cover my face with my cloak and run away to the North Country.
But of a sudden I heard Mary say, "My son, who is not my son, what have you said to the man at your right hand that has made him happy in his agony? The shadow of death is light upon his face, and he cannot turn his eyes from you.
"Now you smile upon me, and because you smile I know you have conquered."
And Jesus looked upon His mother and said, "Mary, from this hour be you the mother of John."
And to John He said, "Be a loving son unto this woman. Go to her house and let your shadow cross the threshold where I once stood. Do this in remembrance of me."
And Mary raised her right hand towards Him, and she was like a tree with one branch. And again she cried, "My son, who is not my son, if this be of God may God give us patience and the knowledge thereof. And if it be of man may God forgive him forevermore.
"If it be of God, the snow of Lebanon shall be your shroud; and if it be only of the priests and soldiers, then I have this garment for your nakedness.
"My son, who is not my son, that which God builds here shall not perish; and that which man would destroy shall remain builded, but not in his sight."
And at that moment the heavens yielded Him to the earth, a cry and a breath.
And Mary yielded Him also unto man, a wound and a balsam.
And Mary said, "Now behold, He is gone. The battle is over. The star has shone forth. The ship has reached the harbor. He who once lay against my heart is throbbing in space."
And we came close to her, and she said to us, "Even in death He smiles. He has conquered. I would indeed be the mother of a conqueror."
And Mary returned to Jerusalem leaning upon John the young disciple.
And she was a woman fulfilled.
And when we reached the gate of the city, I gazed upon her face and I was astonished, for on that day the head of Jesus was the highest among men, and yet Mary's head was not less high.
All this came to pass in the spring of the year.
And now it is autumn. And Mary the mother of Jesus has come again to her dwelling-place, and she is alone.
Two sabbaths ago my heart was as a stone in my breast, for my son had left me for a ship in Tyre. He would be a sailor.
And he said he would return no more.
And upon an evening I sought Mary.
When I entered her house she was sitting at her loom, but she was not weaving. She was looking into the sky beyond Nazareth.
And I said to her, "Hail, Mary."
And she stretched out her arm to me, and said, "Come and sit beside me, and let us watch the sun pour its blood upon the hills."
And I sat beside her on the bench and we gazed into the west through the window.
And after a moment Mary said, "I wonder who is crucifying the sun this eventide."
Then I said, "I came to you for comfort. My son has left me for the sea and I am alone in the house across the way."
Then Mary said, "I would comfort you but how shall I?"
And I said, "If you will only speak of your son I shall be comforted."
And Mary smiled upon me, and she laid her hand about my shoulder and she said, "I will speak of Him. That which will console you will give me consolation."
Then she spoke of Jesus, and she spoke long of all that was in the beginning.
And it seemed to me that in her speech she would have no difference between her son and mine.
For she said to me, "My son is also a seafarer. Why would you not trust your son to the waves even as I have trusted Him?
"Woman shall be forever the womb and the cradle but never the tomb. We die that we may give life unto life even as our fingers spin the thread for the raiment that we shall never wear.
"And we cast the net for the fish that we shall never taste.
"And for this we sorrow, yet in all this is our joy."
Thus spoke Mary to me.
And I left her and came to my house, and though the light of the day was spent I sat at my loom to weave more of the cloth.
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