What do you do when you’re faced with telling the truth or hiding it? This is the reality Mary is confronted with, but she quickly finds out she has no choice at all.
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Lost in her thoughts, Mary doesn’t hear her mother calling her. She is tired. Or weary. Or just frustrated. It had been three days and she still hadn’t found the right words to communicate with her parents. Every time she tried, her stomach twisted into knots and her heart beat loudly…like she was guilty of wrongdoing.
But she had done nothing wrong, so why did she feel this way?
Because her parents didn’t believe her. And perhaps they had reason not to…G-d had been silent for so long. Why would he choose to speak now? And to her, of all people?
Mary had no answer, but regardless of her diminutive status, she couldn’t deny the fact that she was with child while still a virgin. This was something only G-d could do.
“Mary, pray!” Anna states.
Hearing the exasperated tone in her mother’s voice, Mary straightens up. She was supposed to be praying, uttering the same words she had said every morning. I am available to you, Adonai, that I might be the mother of your Mashiac. But she already was his mother. Or she would be in eight months. So what was she supposed to say?
“What’s wrong?” Anna asks, the concern in her voice obvious. “You’ve been acting strange for days and now you’re not praying?”
“I’m sorry, Imma,” Mary says, as her stomach begins twisting into the ever-familiar knots. She drops her gaze and clears her throat. “Adonai, I am available to you…” Does she say what she always says? Or does she tell her mother what she doesn’t want to hear? Mary’s heart races. “I am available to you, and I thank you…for choosing me to be the mother of your Mashiac.”
Anna glares at her oldest child, incredulously.
“What did you say?”
Mary doesn’t respond, nor does she raise her head.
“Mary,” Anna warns.
Quietly, her daughter replies, “’Thank you for choosing me to be the mother of your Mashiac.’”
Anna takes in a deep breath. She had hoped their last conversation on this subject was the end of the matter, but apparently it wasn’t. She turns to Oprah and Kyla.
“Girls, go and wait for me in your room.”
Oprah stands, but Kyla objects, “I’m hungry.”
Anna gets up and escorts the girls to their room.
“Shortly. Just go for now.”
The girls obey as Anna turns back to Mary.
“Look at me,” she says.
Mary meets her eyes. Anna sees no rebellion, just determination.
“I know…,” Anna begins, softening her tone. “I know you want to believe you saw a malakh—”
“But I did!”
“Why would Adonai send a malakh to you? Why would he choose you?” Anna insists. She knows her tone is harsh, but she needs to get her point across to Mary. “Be practical about this. It’s admirable that you desire to serve Adonai, but this…this is a death sentence. You need to let this go and never speak of it again.”
Mary picks at a loose thread on her sleeve and says nothing.
“It is settled then,” Anna states, ready to call her girls back in, until Mary says, “I am with child.”
Her words are so abrupt that they are like a knife tearing into Anna’s heart. Unwilling to believe she heard her correctly, Anna exclaims, “What?”
Mary looks back up at her. The determination is gone from her eyes, leaving only fear.
“I am with child,” she repeats, her voice so low Anna has to strain to hear her.
Stunned, Anna drops into the chair across from Mary. She looks at her daughter: long dark hair, piercing black eyes, beautiful olive skin. Anna recalls the joy and hope she felt when she first held her. Now it was all being torn from her.
“My cycle is late,” Mary adds.
Grasping for hope, Anna says, “Well, it can still come.”
Mary shakes her head.
“So, then you…and Joseph—”
Anna is interrupted by Mary, who exclaims, “No! Joseph and I haven’t…we haven’t been intimate.”
“Then you and another boy?”
“I told you. The malakh said I would bear the Mashiac. I would become pregnant by the Holy One.”
“But that is impossible,” Anna insists, raising her voice. She stands up and walks over to her work table, leaning on it for support. “That is impossible,” she repeats before turning back to her daughter.
Mary shakes her head. Her lips are trembling, and she is crying now. Anna wants to pull her into her arms and comfort her, wipe away her tears, erase everything that had been said…but she can’t. Between the fear creeping up in her and the anger that Mary would do something like this, Anna is stuck, frozen where she stands.
“Mary, tell me the truth,” she says with a steady voice. “Who is the father? Who are you protecting? Were you not happy with Joseph? Was he not agreeable to you?”
Mary says nothing, wiping her tears.
“I told you. This child is of Adonai. I haven’t been with any man.”
Anna hears the conviction in her voice and knows Mary is not lying. But it wasn’t possible, it just wasn’t possible.
The house is unusually quiet. At one time, Heli would have relished the silence, but this morning it was agonizing. It had been one hour since he and Nathan arrived home from the synagogue, one hour since Mary revealed her condition, one hour since their lives changed. With the children waiting in their room, he and Anna now had to consider what to do. But Heli finds it difficult to put two thoughts together, much less grasp the reality of the moment: his Mary, pregnant?
“This is unlike her,” he states, more to himself.
Anna paces the floor, as she had been doing for the past half-hour.
“That’s what I don’t understand. She just isn’t the type to sneak around. She seemed to genuinely care for Joseph. Why this? Why now?”
Heli hears the desperation in her voice, but he doesn’t respond…at least not with the answer she wants to hear.
“What if she’s telling the truth?” he asks.
“That’s just not possible,” Anna insists.
“But it was prophesied.”
“Adonai has not spoken to his people in four hundred years. Is this how he does it now? By condemning a young, innocent woman to death? Who will believe her? Joseph? That mother of his? Will they believe Adonai did this or that she was unfaithful? You know what they will do then: they’ll stone her to death.”
Anna tries to keep her composure, but it’s too much. One tear escapes, then another, until they are streaming down her face and her lips are trembling. Heli stands and takes her into his arms. She was not normally so emotional, neither was she so cynical, but he understood why she was behaving as she did: Mary was their miracle, the child Barren Anna was never supposed to have. He knew about the jeers and spiteful words she had to endure when they were first married. To lose Mary now would be to bring back all those memories. What could they do, though?
As if Anna can read his mind, she pulls away from his embrace and says, “We have to send her away before she begins to show.”
Releasing her completely, he asks, “What?”
“We have to send her away before she starts showing,” she reiterates.
Heli finds his way to his chair, exhausted and hungry. He sighs.
“Where are we going to send her?”
Anna is suddenly energized, and Heli fears she is just grasping at false hope now.
“To my sister, in Hebron. Mary was a small child last time she was there. They won’t remember her.”
Heli shakes his head. While there was some merit to her idea, there was one detail Anna was forgetting: “Her husband is a priest. Do you really think he will disregard the law for family?”
“It doesn’t matter, he’s gone senile,” Anna replies. “I heard he was serving in the temple in Jerusalem last Elul, when he was struck deaf and dumb. He does not speak, cannot hear and no longer travels to Jerusalem to serve. He is senile. He would pose no problem for Mary.”
Heli sadly considers the fate that had befallen his brother-in-law, a fate that now served them.
“So, we send her to Elizabeth. What then? What do we tell Joseph?” he asks, shaking his head.
“We tell him the truth—she went to her doda’s home. The day of their nissuin is still some time away.”
“And the child?”
There is no hesitation in her voice as Anna says, “Elizabeth’s wanted to be a mother for a long time.”
Oh, this is not good, Heli thinks. They were treading on lies now.
“Anna, think this through,” he pleads with her. “What happens when Mary returns? Will she hide the truth from Joseph? Will he marry her under false pretenses? Will there be blood on the night of her nissuin to show she is a virgin?”
Disconcertingly calm, Anna states, “I will not lose my daughter.”
Heli knows there is no arguing with her. He takes a deep breath and says, “Alright.”