Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Heart weight

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

These words, Luke 2:19, are favorites of mine. Somewhere in one of my notebooks, there's a first draft of a hymn text with "Mary kept these things and pondered them" as the refrain. I'd have to go dig it out to remember how I parceled out the "things" among the stanzas. The angel Gabriel was surely the first, maybe the visit to Elizabeth in stanza two, then the manger and finally the dirty, disruptive shepherds stumbling over each other at the stable door, excited and hushed as they told a wild story of angels round about them and the glory of the Lord proclaiming peace to God's people on earth.

Oh, yes, Mary kept these things.

Were I an exegete (and not just another humble ponderer) I would look up the meaning of the Greek word that is translated as "ponder." Where else is it used? What shades of meaning does it bring from other contexts? Is it used for religious meditation? For deliberation? For the humdrum thoughts heard in the mind while cooking, cleaning, walking to work?

The dictionary cites Middle English, Old French and Latin roots for the English word "ponder," including the Latin ponderare, "weigh, reflect on." Weight is what pulls me into the word and might be why I especially like the King James translation above, where these things weigh on and in Mary's heart. As if these miracles and signs had entered the place where the child had lain, replacing the weight of the pregnancy, the pangs of childbirth, with the seismic promise of the angels.

Perhaps the gospel writer puts this sentence here as attribution--to give credibility to fantastic narratives of what was surely an obscure birth. Mary, the mother, is the chronicler, not a scribe with a pen in a palace recording the birth of a son and heir to a prince or emperor. Or maybe the writer is explaining the singular faith of a mother who survived her son and found her grief subsumed in wonder and awe at the resurrection, at the life present in the new Christian community.

I rose early this morning, unable to sleep anymore. As I headed for the bathroom I noticed a light shining under the door of my daughter's room. She is not usually an early riser, but she'd already posted a five-line Facebook status about being awake and all the scenes tumbling through her brain. There was plenty running through my mind as well--checkbooks and cookies, song lyrics and errands, as well as life's hopes and heartaches.

It's no longer dark out. Morning has seeped through the sky outside my living room window, just as it crept over Bethlehem long ago, after that miraculous night that lived on in Mary's heart. What will I carry in my heart today? Will the light of the Christchild fill the spaces left by sleeplessness and worry--lighten them? I hope so.