We'd better step out of the roadway for a few minutes. Do you see
by Frank Avon
that cloud of dust beyond the horizon, heading toward us? It's a caravan.
You never know what the drivers may do with their whips to clear the way.
Besides, my feet are weary. Maybe yours are, too, young as you are.
Weary, dirty, sweaty. The way feet get when you've walked as far as we have
What's you name, by the way?
Ah, Joanna. We had a Joanna amongst us,
back in those days. Yo(sef) (H) anna(h) . Named you are, both of you,
for two of our most beloved scriptural heroes. Yosef, who saved his brothers,
the Yacobeans, and Hannah, the mother (a miracle) of holy Samuel.
Here we are. Good, let's sit on this stone for a while, smoothed
by years and years of use, as if it were a bench, just for the weary -
as I am now. Oh, and there's a little spring, not much of an oasis,
but wet and reasonably clean. Let me wash your feet for you. Maybe
you'll do mine too. We women tend to do things like this for one another.
Not men. They think, I guess, that doing so would debase themselves.
That's why it was so surprising: when we were serving the Seder feast
in that crowded upstairs room that had been acquired for us that Passover.
He sat Himself down on the floor and washed OUR feet, all
of us apostles - he washed and wiped them all. I'll never forget it.
Our Teacher - Rabboni, I sometimes thought of Him - washing our feet!
Yes, yes, I remember. What you really want to know. What's my name?
And his? And how did we ultimately come together. And why. Why.
Oh, I feel better. Thank you. More rested already. Tired feet, tired all over.
Here, let me do yours now. My name? Mariam, like over half the women
in Israel, it seems. Like at least half a dozen of the women in
our entourage, companions of Rabboni. Called the Other Mariams,
by Petros and his crew, who couldn't tell one from the other.
Except His mother, of course. She was The Mariam. We were the others.
They didn't call me the widow of Clopas, for that would have been
confused with the wife of Cleopas. Sometimes, not altogether kindly,
they referred to me as Mariam of Magdala. Implying, I think, that I
was of the Old Line, those old timers still preserving the memory
of Magdala back when it was prosperous. Or simply the Magdalene.
His mother once suggested, 'You, the Magdalene. He, the Nazarene.
There's a pair of you, I guess.' The only time she ever suggested -
but never mind. We think of ourselves as Miryams, you know. The beloved.
For it is Miryam who abides gentlest in our memories. Moses was
The Lawgiver, somewhat distant, somewhat impatient, dee-manding.
And Aaron was just his mouthpiece. Not an articulate spokesman,
but the one who repeated to the crowd, in his loud piercing voice,
whatever Moses told him to repeat. Not The Faithful, either, like
his brother. A trifle wishy-washy, who went along with the people.
But, of course, you know all that. We love to be called Miryam,
for it was she who was the Savior of our Savior. You know the story
as well as I do, but we Miryams like to tell it over and over again.
Miryam, it was, who hid the baby Moses; it was she who offered herself
as mediator between the Nurse (her mother) and the Egyptian queen;
it was she who sang the song of victory after the parting of the waters
and the crossing to the Sea. It's a song we Miryams love to sing still:
[singing softly] 'Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.'
We love, too, of course to prepare the cups for our Seder feasts:
the Cup of Elijah (the wine) and the Cup of Miryam (the water) , for
upon her death, God open a spring of abundant water for His people,
called Meribah (the one misused, you remember. by Moses and Aaron,
preventing them also from entering the Promised Land in person.
We Miryams like to cite the prophet Micah, who taught that it was
the three prophets - Moses and Aaron and Miryam - who led the people:
'And I brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, and I sent before you
Moses, and Aaron, and Miryam.' Of course, our priest and Levites,
to keep us women in our place, like to think God made it clear that
Miryam was subservient to her brother (as women always should be) .
When she protested, she was stricken by a kind of leprosy - her skin
flaky like snow - until Moses (of course, Moses!) had to heal her.
Even so, she was stricken for seven days, seven days impure, alienated.
Oh, yes, you can tell, can't you, how pleased I am to be another Miryam.
And His name? you ask. Surely, by now, you must know it well.
Our men are given many names to honor their ancestors: some, Yosef,
of the coat of many colors, the Egyptian tetrarch (or some such)
who saved all the Yacobeans from famine; David, the godly king,
godly in spite of his many indiscretions; Yacob, the father of us all,
the father of the twelve tribes, who slept with his head upon the stone,
who climbed the ladder with the angels; and, one of the most honored,
Yeshua, who led our people through the parting of the waters, once again,
this time, the Yordan, alone among the survivors of the other Sea,
before whom the walls of Yericho fell, and ultimately all of Canaan.
Our Teacher's name, as you must know, was Yeshua. Yeshua the Nazarene.
Savior. The Savior of his people. As Miryam was the savior of our savior.
But you know all of this. Surely you do. Oh, here comes that caravan.
We'll have to endure their dust. Hear their whips, whistling through
the air. Who knows where they're bound. And what is loaded on their carts.
As soon as they're out of sight and the dust settles, we should be on our way.
Yeshua - our Yeshua - hardly the conqueror of Canaan- was the son
of Mariam and Yosef.
Oh, yes, Yosef was his father, whether he sired him or not.
When Yeshua was just a lad, he had to decide in his own mind
what to call his God, whom he worshipped in the temple, studied
in the scriptures, and spoke with in his visions. King, like David.
O Infinite One. Lord of lords. Yahweh. Simply Spirit. He chose Father,
for the father whom he knew, Yosef, embodied what he knew of godliness
better than any other human figure in his experience. Our culture
requires us to use a masculine noun for Divinity; otherwise, he might
have called God Mother - after his mother Mariam. Though I have to think,
in my own mind, that he deliberately chose Yosef, not his mother.
More about that later, if we have time. It was Yosef and Mariam to whom
he said, in the chambers of the temple, among Pharisees and Sadducees,
'Even now, I must be about my Father's business.' Yosef understood.
His mother Mariam didn't. At least, in after years, it certainly seemed
she didn't. She could never quite get beyond - making demands of him:
'Do something right away to help these wedding hosts. They are running
short of wine.' 'You are going to get into trouble; come home with us
and help take care of your family.' 'Be sure your brothers get high places
in whatever kingdom you're setting up.' A long-time widow, hence head of her house,
she was used to telling Yeshua and his half-brothers what to do.
Like Shimon Petros, she never thought of me at all - or only as another
of His Mariams. Only at the cross, only when we were grieving at the cross,
did the mother of Yeshua humble herself to Him, to his apostles, even to us.
It was we three grieving, using our veils to hid our weeping, there for him.
Where was Shimon Petros? Where were the rest of the Twelve? Only young Yohan.
In His agony, Yeshua saw her. 'My Lady, ' he whispered, croaked really,
'Behold your son.' Most folk think he meant - would have pointed to -
Yohan His apostle. I've never been so sure. I thought I heard,
in his undertones, 'Mother, here I am that I am. Look at me now.
Behold your son.' Then, even less audibly, 'I'm thirsty.' Then
(did I hear an echo of thunder, a distant echo of what was about to be?) ,
in a voice once again, authoritative, though broken, 'IT IS FINISHED.'
END OF PART TWO. THERE WILL BE MORE.