❝Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’❞ Luke 2:34-35
Reflection by Erin Campbell
When I was a girl, my grandfather, with fingers like oak branches, poked his index finger in the middle of my back to make me stand up straight. My grandfather died two months before I married Eric, the father of my children. We found out we were pregnant one month before we learned Eric had terminal cancer. I thought about that virtual finger, and my mantra to myself was “The weight of the world is not on your shoulders,” and I would stand up straight again.
When our Jack was diagnosed with terminal cancer less than a year after losing Eric, I said the same mantra.
Imagine Mary: she must have been terrified, elated, and confused all at once. How did she remind herself to stand up straight, because she was carrying the weight of the world in her womb? Every first-time mother (and every mother of every child after the first one) feels those same three emotions: terror, elation, confusion, at minimum. For me, I looked to Mary as an inspiration, especially when pregnant with my son, my second child, during my husband’s illness, during Advent.
Children remind us of the Holy Spirit because they, as Wordsworth said, are “trailing clouds of glory,” and they are still able to see the miracles in the ordinary: a slithering slug, a maple leaf, a green frog. Mary must have delighted in watching Jesus discover his world, in the gifts he brought her, maybe a horned toad, maybe a locust husk, probably a poppy.
Mary was pierced in the side from the moment of conception, as we are all pierced in the side by the miracle of birth, the miracle of the God made flesh (his birth), and the miracle of the resurrection. Maybe this is how we understand our three-in-one God: because of the gifts of faith and redemption, we too are always already parents, children, and animi. We have souls, fingers, minds, and backs stronger than oak branches. And the weight of the world is not upon our shoulders.