Mother of the Miserable Heart

The Christmas verses of my Mater et Misericordiae poem…


All joy and expectation, wonder and awe…

Who is this, wriggling in my arms,

this little bundle of life and flesh,

woven from my bone, and blood,

and heart, and life…

and Another’s,

that makes me stop still in wonder.

My heart grabs on and holds tight

to the moment, not the understanding of it,

rehearsing the scenes as they are added

to the angel’s first proclaiming, “The Son of God.”

Here are shepherds, coming

Sharing David’s work

The first to greet David’s Son,

And Israel’s King.

And my heart leaps with joy and awe

at the message of angels’ songs,

confirming for these shepherds

the good news of David’s Son

first told to me nine months ago.

And here I am, holding

“He who will be given the throne of His Father, David,”

and the one “Whose kingdom will have no end,”

here, amidst the straw and stone and dirt of a stable

in David’s city.

And here I am, laying

New mana sent down from heaven to satisfy

the hunger of His peoples’ hearts,

here, in this feeding trough of beasts

In this town, called “house of bread.”

And my mind and heart wrap around all of this mystery,

holding it close, safely tucked away

with the words of the angel’s greeting, “Hail, full of grace,”

to be added to and built upon by future angels’ songs.


What foreign thing is this, these gentile priests and astronomers,

kneeling here in homage, before Israel’s King

leaving me speechless.

And was it the same starlight that stood as a sign to Abraham

of the fulfillment of the promise

that brought them here, tonight:

to witness the final fulfillment of that same Covenant?

And wonder and joy overcome me, as my heart ponders again

Who is this, who, in infancy

Receives the homage Solomon gained

At the height of his power?

Receiving lavishly at his cradle

gifts our greatest king saw at his throne:

Gold, for his royal heritage, the Son of David, and Solomon…

Frankincense, reflecting his destiny as priest,

in the line of Melchizedek.

as first-born and Son of David.

But one brings offering of mournful myrrh,

the sacrifice of suffering,

the anointing of death

that seems it would be out of place

in this place of birth.

And my heart wonders, and expands once again,

to accommodate this new piece of mystery,

added to the shepherd’s awe,

to be built upon by future offerings.


All joy and anticipation, the first time we bring him home,

to the center of our hearts,

our identity, and his destiny—

the house of the Most High,

the temple of the tabernacle of His glory.

And I feel like Hannah, bringing my own,

My firstborn

To be consecrated to the Father.

Not to be redeemed from his service

For Who could redeem this First born, Come himself to redeem

And be the new High Priest?

And my heart is as full, I’m sure, as was this first one

“graced” to be mother to God’s chosen one.

We bring him in humble obedience to the law,

He Who is the Law’s beginning, and it’s end

But who is this, that comes

With eyes full of the light of knowing

Reaching out arms weary with waiting

To hold the Savior of the world?

And he blesses You for the miracle

of Israel’s light,

That he has somehow been enlightened to recognize

Held in his arms.

And my heart cries in wonder with him

At the renewed proclamation of peace for all peoples

And hope for those far off.

And yet before this peace, a shadow will come, he says

Contradiction, rejection, pain…

And I catch a glimpse of a wider plan

Than I had first imagined

And my role is bigger than the initial

Giving flesh to God.

Somehow, for me, heart –piercing

must precede life-giving,

and pain and anguish are means of opening

to wider motherhood…

for the salvation of Israel.

And I catch Your hand, O Lord,

A little tighter

As I add this layer of Your mystery

that is being woven through my life

to the songs of angels and gifts of kings.


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