For the past five years our family has participated in the Canadian Badlands Passion Play. This year the director asked me to play the part of Mary, the mother of Jesus. What a challenge for a stay-at-home mom! Wanting to do my best, I dove into a time of Bible study and prayer and here are some of the lessons I learned.
A Mother's Teaching
One of my goals was to memorize the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). While doing this I noticed something compelling. I was amazed at the times Jesus spoke and did things that mirrored Mary's words: "He has filled the hungry with good things" came to mind as Jesus fed the 5000. "He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts" jumped to life with Christ's profound, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." When Christ kneeled to wash the disciples feet, Mary's words echoed in my mind, "He exalts the lowly." Were these convictions of His mother's a part of the education of the young Christ?
C.S. Lewis said, "I think ... it will do us no harm to remember that, in becoming Man, he bowed His neck beneath the sweet yoke of a heredity and early environment. Humanly speaking, He would have learned this style, if from no one else (but it was all about Him) from His mother." Mary was righteous and diligent to fulfill all the law. She would have wholeheartedly obeyed, "You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 11:19).
As I studied Mary's other children I could see this same devotion to righteousness. James and Jude each penned letters inspired by the Holy Spirit. Here, too, were hints of Mary's influence.
Am I as carefully and fervently teaching my own children? I started out with such resolve, but disappointments and weariness come with the years and I am resolved to find new zeal for my task.
A Mother's Prayer
During the practices, the directors along with the actor playing Jesus, worked with me on a scene in which Mary cradlesher crucified son before he is taken to the grave. Together we recreated a beautiful tableau known as the Pieta. That night at home, as I hugged my youngest daughter to myself and listened to her prayers, I was struck by the similarity of this embrace with what I had just rehearsed. An instant picture of Mary with her precious little Jesus, offering up prayer to the King of Heaven, reminded me that I was one of a multitude of mothers throughout the ages leading their little ones to the throne of God. How beautiful and how precious that we've been given this privilege and responsibility.
Mary knew how to pray and praise the Lord. Not only do we have preserved for us her beautiful Magnificat, but we see her in the upper room keeping vigil with other believers as they await the promised Holy Spirit.
Her children saw and heard her example. Eusebius said of her son, James that his knees were like a camel's because of his devotion to prayer. It was this same son who penned, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). Jude, another of Mary's sons, gives us a beautiful doxology at the end of his letter. These men grew up in a home where prayer and praise were natural, everyday occurrences.
I long to develop a more meaningful prayer time with my own children, a legacy that will travel with them throughout their lives.
A Mother's Song
There is a poignant moment early in the play, after Jesus clears the temple courts and drives out the money changers. He beckons the people to prayer by singing a beautiful song: "O, Praise the Lord, all ye nations. O, Praise the Lord, all ye peoples. We will enter Your courts; give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endureth forever."
Putting myself in Mary's place at such a moment I realized she would have taught and sung these songs with her children as they traveled to the Passover. I thought about my own days nursing my babies and the special hymns and songs I sang to them. When the children grew older and times of sickness or distress came, it was these particular songs they requested. I also recalled the story of a young man brought up in a godly home. After encountering trouble with the law, he ended up in jail for a night. Filled with guilt and remorse and terrified by the crazed man in the cell next to him, he began to sing the hymns his mother had sung to him as a boy.
A mother's song can have a deep impact, sowing truths that will bring forth fruit in the darkest times of a child's life. Once again, I am resolved to be more diligent in imparting the hymns of the faith to my children.
A Mother's Waiting
How hopeful the years are when a mother has young children. She spends her time planting seeds of faith in their lives. But for some, there are dark days of longsuffering as they wait to see the fruition of these labours. What a sorrow it must have been to Mary, after raising up her children in the way they should go, to see some of them wrought with unbelief (John 7:5).Those young men had been present to see Christ's first miracle. They had heard Mary's testimony of God's faithfulness. Yet, even with a godly upbringing and the works of God before their eyes, their stubborn hearts would not accept their mother's faith
It was not until the Holy Spirit touched them personally that those men accepted Christ as "the Lord of glory." As mothers, we must humbly remember that "Neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase" (1 Corinthians .3:7). It is important to be faithful to what God has called us to, but only He can save a soul. It is only His grace and the work of the Holy Spirit that accomplishes this miracle. Apart from Him I can do nothing and the heartfelt desire for the salvation of our children must compel us to prayer and a humble reliance on Him, not to guilt and condemnation for our own shortcomings.
A Mother's Humility
If there is one trait that marks the holy family it is humbleness. Mary called herself a maidservant of the Lord. James and Jude identified themselves as bondservants of the Lord. They never used their family connection to forward themselves. They may have started out their lives with the example of a humble mother, but that example was surpassed and crowned by Christ's own as they witnessed him "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Philippians. 2:6 RSV).
My favourite part of the play is the ending. My heart swells with adoration and soars with love as I see the resurrected Christ make his way past all the characters of the show. Whether it's a Roman soldier, a villager, or a Pharisee he passes, every knee bows. As He climbs the hill that marks His ascension to the Father He passes His mother Mary. With what great joy she kneels. She fully realizes that this life was never about her, as faithful as she has been, but about her blessed Lord, the Son of glory. With humble awe I too bow my knee, because I know what Mary knew, that living for Him and loving Him is what is truly important.
A humble heart does not start with me trying to abase myself. Rather, it is forgetting self in the presence of such a precious, beautiful, and perfect Saviour. The humble mother does not look to herself, she looks to God. When my days have been completed and my course has been run, I want to hear those words, "Well done my good and faithful servant." And when I do, I shall cast the crown He gives me at His feet, because I truly know that He alone is worthy.
Airdrie, Alberta, Canada
Harry and Charmaine's children are Micahl (24), Emily (20), Timothy (17), Elizabeth (17), Robin (11).