Mary’s letter to her children

My dearest children,

It is with a great and tender love that I write to you today. You, my children, reach out to me often to ask for my help. It gives me joy each time you address me, each time you seek my help. Your words of love mean so much to me. I am always eager to help you, to pray to our gracious and merciful God for your many needs.

I am often surprised by your questions about my life. I will answer a few of those questions in this letter and perhaps more at a later time. There are some questions whose answers must wait until we meet in person in God’s kingdom of heaven. All of your questions are welcome as they are a sign of your love for me and for my beloved Son.

You have asked me often: When God called me to be the mother of His Son was I afraid, how quickly did I answer God’s request, did I realize all that would be required of me? Those simple questions require a long answer, as they reflect so much on the years of my childhood.

I cannot remember a time in my life when the love of God was not in my heart and in my mind. Each day when I awoke from sleep, I would open my eyes to His love and feel in my heart the great love He has for me. Each day the first words I spoke were words of praise and thanksgiving for our heavenly Father. My parents taught me this, that my first duty must always be to our God.

My people are commanded to begin each day with the prayer which is called “the Shema”: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” This prayer was taught to me from the very earliest age, and I prayed the words each morning when I arose.

As a small child – I cannot remember what age I was although I know that I was very young – my parents entrusted me to the Temple in Jerusalem where I learned the teachings, the prayers and the sacred words of my ancestors. Our people often pondered our relationship with our God and sought His help and answers to our most pressing needs.

I spent each day in the company of holy men and women who had devoted their lives to our loving and merciful God. Each day, throughout the day, when I was able to do so, I would raise my eyes to the Holy of Holies. I ached to see the Face of our heavenly Father with my own eyes and not only to imagine His Face with my heart. I desired so much to be close to Him, not to be separated from His Presence by the heavy veil which covered the Holy Place in the Temple. I knew that our God resided within that most sacred place as He had promised to remain with us forever. From the time of our father Abraham many centuries ago, we have had a covenant, a set of promises, given to us by our God, who had chosen us to be his very own. From that long ago time our God has never abandoned us and stands ready to help us.

I listened with rapt attention to the music which filled the Temple, music which was devoted to the praise of our God. Often, I sang those songs silently throughout the day and made them my special prayer of love to our Father. Though my days were filled with many activities, I blessed God for His goodness to me and to all of His people. I rejoiced in the work which had been given to me to do. I was just a small child, yet somehow, I knew that God had chosen for me all that I was to do each day. Those thoughts gave me so much comfort even on those days when I missed seeing my parents’ smiles, hearing their voices and feeling their arms embracing me. During festival times – three times each year, my parents traveled to Jerusalem, and I spent time in their company. What a joy that was for me!

When it was time – when my body began to change with my approaching womanhood, I was sent home to live with my parents. I was told that it wouldn’t be long before a husband would be found for me, as this was the way of my people. I prayed daily that the man chosen for me would be a holy and righteous man. I was not disappointed when I learned that Joseph of Nazareth was the man chosen to be my husband. Not only was Joseph righteous, a man devoted to the Laws of God, but Joseph was also talented in his chosen work. I knew that Joseph was kind, courageous and strong in body and spirit. I saw the Hand of God in the choice of a husband for me. 

Joseph of Nazareth (Franco Zefferelli film)

Before we were married, Joseph and I often walked in the garden of my parents’ home, speaking softly to one another. I enjoyed being in Joseph’s company and hearing about his work and his thoughts about the life we were soon to share. Joseph trusted so deeply in God’s love for our people. He often pondered the Law which God had provided for us and that Law was reflected in the quality of the work which Joseph did for others. I looked forward to that day when I would live with Joseph in our own home, for I believed that our home would always be filled with joy.

Some days before my marriage to Joseph, when I was on my own – I don’t remember now if I was in the garden tending the vegetables and flowers which my mother grew there or working alone at my loom, I was startled by a brilliant light, much brighter than even the sun on a cloudless summer day. Though it seems impossible, I could hear music and the soft sound of voices singing within and surrounded by the light. In the light I could see the form of someone coming toward me – I cannot tell you how he looked, whether like a man or a spirit. I knew deep within me that the form which I saw in the light was that of an angel. There are no human words to describe the angel’s beauty nor the sense of awe which I felt just looking at him. The angel spoke gently to me although I did not hear his words with my ears. The words, instead, seem to form deep inside of me, as though the words were themselves alive and moving.

Unknown artist

Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you”. I did not understand what the angel meant; the angel sensed my confusion and fear, so he continued: “Do not be afraid Miriam, as you have found favor with God. You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Yeshua. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the House of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.”

I could feel my mind racing as I listened to the angel, trying to remember all that I had been taught of my faith. I remembered the prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” I remember thinking – Could this woman of prophecy be me? How is it that the Lord God has so favored me? And yet deep within my heart I sensed it must be true, that I was the most blessed of women, that Isaiah’s long-ago prophecy of a Messiah was coming true at long last – and I was to be the honored woman who would bear the Messiah into the world. 

I knew that children were conceived through the coming together of a man and a woman in marriage. I was not yet married to Joseph, a marriage that had been arranged by my parents before and without my consent. My parents did not know of my desire nor my promise to God to remain a virgin. As a child in the Temple, I had promised our Father in heaven to belong exclusively to Him. The angel recognized my puzzlement at the news which he had given to me, so he continued: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

In my heart I could feel my answer to the angel’s request forming even before the words were on my lips. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Most High. Let it be to me according to your word.” Then the light faded, the music stopped and the angel left me alone at my work to ponder all that had passed between us.

The angel had also told me that my cousin Elizabeth, who was long past the age of conceiving a child, would give birth to a son in a few months. I knew at once that I should go to her. Elizabeth and I had spent many wonderful moments together when she visited Jerusalem during my childhood. Elizabeth often accompanied her husband Zechariah when it was his turn to perform his priestly functions in the Temple. Her companionship meant so much to me, as Elizabeth was a loving reminder of my parents and the home I had left behind in my childhood.

As I pondered all that had just happened, I began to be uneasy. How could I have a child without a husband? I knew that there was no limit to God’s power, and yet the Law of my God prescribed death for a woman who had relations with a man without the bonds of marriage. What would my parents and Joseph think? How do I tell my family and Joseph what I had just seen and heard? Would they believe me? What would the people of our village think when they heard my story? Would my parents be shamed and shunned? Yet I trusted so completely in God’s love for me that I knew that He would take care of everything, that there was nothing to fear.

I gave thanks to our God for the blessings that He was imparting to me and to my people at the fulfillment of the ancient promise of a Messiah. I praised God for His goodness and mercy and asked for His assistance as I walked this new path that He had set before me. So many images flashed then through my mind – the delight I often felt when I the saw the light glisten and dance on the moving water in the stream near our home, the joy I knew as I watched the approaching morning sun change the colors of the clouds, the surprised smile within me when I was startled by small creatures scurrying about in the brush looking for something to eat, the captivating smell of the flowers in my mother’s garden and the intricate beauty of their petals – everything that I encountered that day after the angel had spoken to me had an indescribable joy to it. I wondered then if God knows this joy as He looks at the beauty He has created everywhere and given lovingly to us.

I approached my parents that evening with my desire to visit my cousin Elizabeth. They were resistant at first, yet they could see that I was determined. Arrangements were made for my travel, and I began my journey to Ein Karem the next day

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