I’m currently reading a fat historical novel by Irving Stone, The Agony and the Ecstasy . As the German title Michelangelo lets assume, it’s the story of Michelangelo’s life and works. According to Stone’s novel, the time had come for young Michelangelo to come up with a theme to work on. After some consideration and pondering Michelangelo decided to create a relief of Maria holding Baby Jesus. (Madonna of the Stairs)
His decision to create that theme developed when Michelangelo was doubting the wide-spread assumption that Maria was completely surprised and overwhelmed by the news and task she was given by the Archangel Gabriel. The world simply assumed she had no choice but to fulfill God’s wish or rather order. Stone lets Michelangelo take a different stand. The young artist, only about 13 years or so old, contemplated if Maria actually had a say in this. If she actually did, when did she agree to carry the child? When she was enunciated to have the child of God? When she actually bore the child? When Jesus was still very little? She had to know about his future and purpose in life and was she willing to be the one to support him and let him do his job?
When I was reading this part of the novel I thought, maybe I could pick up on Michelangelo’s thought and write down a fictional version of the thought process and discussion Maria had with a friend. This friend could have been Joseph, but only really to explain to him, what was going on since he, as we know, is not the biological father of the child. I decided to write down the discussion Maria was having with a good friend of hers whom we don’t know.
Maria: My friend, can you lend me your ear, please. I have a decision to make.
Sarah: What is that decision, Maria, tell me. You know you can always come to me when you need to talk.
Maria: Yes, I know, that is exactly why have come over. I am going to tell you a story now which is very hard to believe. Please trust me it is true and not figment of my imagination.
Sarah: Now you are making me very curious. Please sit down and let me make you some tea. I have just received some jasmine leaves.
Maria: You are so kind. Tea will be fine now. – Well, how can I start? Do you remember when Joseph and I were out in the field collecting sandalwood and frankincense?
Sarah: I most certainly do. I remember you came back and were very distraught. You didn’t even see me in the doorway.
Maria: You were standing in your doorway? You are right, I did not notice that. There is a reason why I was so absentminded. When we were out in the field, I had just sat down for a bit to get some water from by goatskin when a very strange being appeared. Just like that out of nowhere. It was hovering above the ground and it was big and with a bright light surrounding it. I was so afraid because I had never seen anything like it before.
Sarah: Hovering over the ground with a bright light surrounding it? Are you sure it wasn’t the sun playing tricks on you?
Maria: No, absolutely not. I mean, at first I thought too that it was that because I hadn’t been feeling too well that day. You know, it was that time of the month.
Sarah: Yes, yes, I know exactly what you mean. Continue, please.
Maria: Well, this being introduced itself and said he was Archangel Gabriel and he had a message for me.
Maria: It’s true, it’s true. He continued and said I was to carry God’s son and he was to be called Jesus.
Sarah: Oh my god. – Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it in that way. He said that? What did you do?
Maria: What do you think I did? I sat there and couldn’t say a word. I looked around for Joseph but he was nowhere to be seen. He must have been behind the little hill or so.
Sarah: Did Archangel Gabriel say anything else?
Maria: He must have seen how shocked I was because he said I shouldn’t be afraid. It was God’s will and he had chosen me as the mother of his child. I then asked him why me and he replied because I was the pure virgin with a pure heart. I told him I had promised my heart and body to Joseph who was to be my husband very soon.
Sarah: That’s true.
Maria: Apparently that is of no importance and he said I could still marry Joseph but the child would be from God. And that’s not all.
Sarah: What do you mean, that’s not all. What else could there be?
Maria: God has made a plan fro Jesus. He will be our savior, Archangel Gabriel said. He will have to overcome many obstacles in his life and his path to save humankind won’t be easy. He will have many friends, true friends. But he will also have many enemies. These will eventually kill him and that a relatively young age.
Sarah: I don’t know what to say!
Maria: Now you know why I needed someone to talk to.
Sarah: And what did you say? Did you accept? Does Joseph know?
Maria: That is exactly my problem. I haven’t told Joseph because I haven’t made a decision yet. I told Archangel Gabriel I couldn’t just say yes. I have to think about this. This is an important decision. I mean, am I ready to take on this responsibility? How will Joseph react? I love him. How can he accept a child from another man even if it’s from God? And then, can I bear a child and see how his life will be cut short? How can a mother bear the idea of losing her child again?
Sarah: Those are good questions, Maria. I couldn’t handle losing my children. There is such a strong bond between a mother and her child. But then, it is God’s child and if he has chosen you to be the mother there is a big reason for that. I’m sure our Lord doesn’t make willy-nilly decisions. And look at the world right now. There is so much bad in it, we could really need a savior to set things straight again. I’m surprised God hasn’t sent another big flood. If he thinks this child is the savior of us all…
Maria: Yes, I know what you mean. I have thought about that too. Look at what the Romans have brought on us. Look at the greedy people who only think of themselves. Look at the faithless people who have no love or respect towards each other anymore. I know all that and I see that. But am I the right person? And what shall I tell Joseph? I don’t think I can have another child after Jesus. I don’t want to lose Joseph.
Sarah: Talk to Joseph. He is a wonderful man. He is faithful and loves God. I’m sure he will understand. Maybe Archangel Gabriel can talk to him too and explain it to him.
Maria: Maybe. And why not? If he can talk to me, he can talk to my husband. Oh, Sarah, this is so difficult! – But I love God and will help him in every which way I can. I will love that child. I will love Jesus. I will be at his side until he dies. I will be his mother. And I hope Joseph will be like a father to him. I know he will love just as much. Jesus will be the love of God and the love of Joseph and me too.
Sarah: Oh, Maria, those are wonderful words. Come, let me hug you dearly.
Maria: Thank you, Sarah. Thank you so much. This is exactly what I needed. Thank you for listening and helping me make a decision. It will be good. It will all be good. Thank God.