Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Friday 15 October |
Saint of the Day: St. Teresa of Avila
Aleteia logo
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Considering Mary’s nightmares

MADONNA WITH CHILD

Public Domain

Meg Hunter-Kilmer - published on 01/13/18

Being conceived without sin doesn’t protect you from trauma.

It’s a funny thing about the liturgical year—two weeks ago Jesus was born, then almost immediately we remembered the Slaughter of the Innocents, though it would have happened at least 40 days after Jesus’ birth. Then came the Magi, and suddenly Jesus was a full-grown adult being baptized in the Jordan. We have to get to Ordinary Time, of course, so we can prepare for Lent starting all too soon. And while the march from the manger to the Cross makes perfect sense, cramming 33 years into every liturgical year sometimes leaves me hungering for more time to sit with these moments that are so easy to skim over.

This year, I’m focusing on Jesus’ mother. I want to love her better and understand her more, but mostly I want to let her teach me about her Son, how to love and be loved by him. So I’m sitting with her and meditating on different moments in her life, different titles she’s been given, different images and prayers. And right now, with Christmas packed away and Bethlehem behind me, I’m thinking about what it was like for Mary to leave Bethlehem.

It was no peaceful parting, of course. The wise men had moved on that day, leaving in their wake a mother stunned at the nations adoring her son and already holding the myrrh she knew would anoint his corpse. But her job wasn’t to live in Good Friday. Right now, she had him. And for the next 30 years, he would be hers. She had no way of knowing how long he would be with her—that we know of—so, like every mother who’s been touched by loss, she tried to hold him tight and love him now.

She went to bed that night trying to move out of the world of kings and incense and prophecies fulfilled, ready to return to the hidden life of ordinary beauty, of dishes and diapers and a perfectly ordinary baby who was anything but. After a wild day, it was time to be back to normal.

But the Lamb of God didn’t come for 30 years of pleasantness and three hours of pain. He came to suffer as we suffer. And now his life was threatened. Joseph shook her awake, the go bag already packed. Like so many mothers, she grabbed her child and ran.

Did she know what would happen to the other babies in Bethlehem, to the sons of the neighbors she’d come to love since arriving that cold midwinter night? Did she sob silently as she clung to her sleeping boy, the donkey taking them slowly—too slowly—from the deep and dreamless sleep that would soon wake to a nightmare? Or did she cling to the hope that only her son was threatened, that as long as she could keep him safe, there would be no slaughter?

Whether she knew or not, I’m sure the imagined screams of mother and child haunted her as they headed further into the unknown. Those were her children, the slaughtered and those left behind. And somehow she had to move on. She couldn’t spend her life in anguish over what she had been powerless to prevent. She couldn’t let survivor’s guilt cripple her, nor could she allow herself to become angry at God. She had a child to love and an ordinary life to live. She had to navigate life as a refugee, a stranger in a strange land until God called his son out of Egypt.

Being conceived without sin doesn’t protect you from trauma. Mary may have had nightmares. She may have found herself crying without even realizing that she was thinking of them, the children who had died to save her son, the parents who mourned them. And then perhaps her mind went to the prophecies, to the slaughter awaiting him.

We can’t know what she did then, how she talked herself down or whether she even needed to. But I have a feeling that there were moments when the tears spilled over, just as there are for us, and that a young, heartbroken Mary pulled a squirmy Jesus to herself and clung to him. When she forgot how to be a woman filled with joy, she grabbed ahold of Jesus and belonging to him held the darkness at bay for a while.

I don’t know the trauma you’ve dealt with, the guilt you hold on to, or the fears you have for the future. But your Mother does. And she’s suffered something similar herself. As you walk with the Lord into uncertainty, in a life where it seems the only inevitability is the Cross, take a lesson from the Blessed Mother: cling to Jesus. Turn from the memories and the dread and fix your eyes on him. In a world of slaughtered innocents, only he can bring peace.


MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS

Read more:
How many Holy Innocents were killed by King Herod?


MADONNA WITH CHILD

Read more:
“To Jesus through Mary”: I finally get that!

Tags:
Virgin Mary
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Larry Peterson
This is the only officially recognized Marian apparition in the U...
2
Philip Kosloski
A scientist describes the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima
3
NIGHTBIRDE
Cerith Gardiner
Nightbirde finds inspiration in Joan of Arc
4
POPE JOHN JOHN XXIII
Philip Kosloski
Vatican II’s primary goal, according to St. John XXIII
5
Cerith Gardiner
Archbishop gives little girl a beautiful response about why God a...
6
GETAFE
Dolors Massot
Two sisters become nuns at the same time in Spain
7
FATIMA MIRACLE OF THE SUN
Philip Kosloski
Pope Pius XII witnessed the Fatima “miracle of the sun” while wal...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.