Anna kneads the dough, listening to the chatter of her younger daughters as they play on the floor beside her. There was once a day when she thought she would remain barren, like her sister, but G-d had truly blessed her, and though they lived in a violent day, she is grateful to be surrounded by her family. She places the bread in a basket and tosses a warm cloth over it so it can rise. It would be ready for the evening meal. She washes her hands in the bowl on the table and turns to her children.
“Can we eat?” asks Kyra, the younger of the two.
Anna chuckles. The child rarely thought of anything but food.
“Come, let’s wash up,” she responds, taking her hand.
The door opens. Expecting Mary, Anna is surprised to see Joachim and Nathan instead.
“Good morning, my love,” Joachim says, strolling over to her. He takes her by the waist and kisses her. Anna blushes, as the girls giggle and Nathan groans. “That is what I wanted to hear,” he adds, smiling at his family’s responses. Releasing Anna to wash his hands, he looks around and asks, “Where is Mary?”
“I sent her for more water, but she hasn’t returned,” Anna replies, with concern in her voice. Roman sentries who marched through Nazareth were known to stop and question the locals… or worse and that is what she feared.
“We haven’t had any trouble with the Romans lately, but I’ll go look for her,” her husband says, trying to assuage her uncertainties, though it’s apparent he feels the same. He dries his hands and starts towards the door, when it opens. Mary enters, the large clay pot filled with water in her hands.
Relieved, Anna runs to Mary and hugs her.
“Where were you, child?” she asks, as Mary sets the pot down.
“At the well, as you asked,” Mary responds.
“Well, don’t take so long next time,” Anna advises, ushering her family to the table to eat. “You scared me.”
Mary takes a couple steps towards her, but stops. There is an unmistakable excitement in her eyes, her face, her posture, but she hesitates to speak.
“What is it?” Anna asks.
“There was a man at the well,” her daughter ventures.
“What man?” Joachim interrupts. Anna hears the edge in his voice and knows he is ready to fight for the honor of his daughter.
“He was a malakh, an angel, a messenger of G-d. He said the Mashiac was coming and I would be his mother.”
Silence falls between them. Anna glares at her daughter, dumbfounded and speechless. Mary was never given to stories or wild imaginations; so what was this?
“A malakh?” Joachim asks.
“He was very tall and brilliant, like the sun.” Mary lifts her hand high above her head to illustrate her words.
“This is what he said?”
“Well, no, but he couldn’t have been anything else.”
“But he said that you would be the mother of the Mashiac,” Joachim continued. “And what about Joseph? Will he be the father?”
Mary shook her head.
“The child will be from Go-d.”
All are silent again, even the little ones. Anna looks at Nathan, Oprah and Kyra, who are waiting for the situation to be resolved. They seem to sense something isn’t right and Anna fears for Mary. She wasn’t gullible enough to believe a total stranger, but if she is telling the truth…
Anna closes the gap between them, Joachim behind her.
“How will this be? How can you become pregnant without having relations with a man?” Her voice is considerably lower.
The mirth in Mary’s eyes disappears.
“He said the Holy Spirit will come on me and fill my womb with the son of G-d,” Mary responds, meekly.
“That is blasphemy, Mary,” Joachim advises, the edge back in his voice. He looks around, as though someone else might hear them. “You are smart enough to know you ought not speak that way.”
“But you taught us to pray, Imma,” Mary pleads, turning to Anna, “’I am available to you, G-d…’”
Anna wants to believe Mary – this was her sensible, obedient child. This was her firstborn; with a practical head on her shoulders. She had never done anything like this, so what had her stirred up? Why would she receive news like this? Did she not understand the implications of what she was embracing? Pregnant by the Holy Spirit? What would Joseph say? Or worse, his Imma? If the woman found out, who would stop her from running to the priest? Mary would be brought out for justice and stoned for adultery! Is that what G-d was asking of her? Of them?
That’s if G-d could do this. She would be guilty of disbelief if Mary was right, but He had been silent for so long, could she really accept that He had chosen her daughter, of all the maidens in Galilee, to bring forth his Mashiac?
“He even said Aunt Elizabeth is with child,” Mary added quietly.
Anna had her answer.
Laughing, she responds, “Elizabeth is past her child-bearing years. She could no more have a child than your Abba could. And if she was, then she would have sent word so we could rejoice with her and you know we haven’t heard from her. Really Mary, you cannot be this naïve. You cannot believe the words of a complete stranger. Stop this nonsense and do not repeat this conversation. You are betrothed, to a good man at that. You need to focus on your lessons and act like the woman you are expected to be. You are no longer a child. Now, let’s eat.”
With that, Anna ends the conversation and goes back to ushering her family to the table. Only the younger children follow. They climb up on their chairs, ready to eat. Anna turns back. Joachim hasn’t moved; his eyes on Mary, whose face is cast downward. The excitement is gone from her posture and as much as it hurts Anna, she knows this is for the best.