3: The Tribulation of the Virgin


Serou continued his story with thoughtful looks upon his face, “The Virgin Mary is the second miracle in her own existence, you should know, that her mother and father were equally favored by God. Their love story is the fuel of legends young girls dream about. Iochim needed no introduction to Anna. He had a full report come to him from her handmaidens and nanny. He knew her likes and dislikes before their parents spoke about a family arranged marriage. Rightfully so, Anna held fear in her heart not knowing to whom she would be betrothed. There had been other inquiries about her. At their formal introduction, Iochim dressed like an imperial prince. He had a young man’s beard and mustache struggling for maturity. His eyes were radiant brown and his smile could melt snow. The apparition awed the young girl beyond her wildest expectations. He loved her childlike innocence. Her devotion to Yahweh as her parents was an added bonus. One could tell that within the multiple robes she wore there was a well formed young woman in her budding years. She had eyes of onyx black that sparkled like silver fire. She had a pretty face equipped with high cheek bones and her hair had a natural curl in places. Pretty pink lips with pearl white teeth adorned her oval face.  She wore braids that crossed the crown of her head to add height to her petite stature. In all, she comprised a delectable morsel of femininity. Add to all that her cooking ability and household knowledge. She was a good catch and Iochim wasted no time in putting his bid in for her hand. When her parents were presented with the ketubah (the marriage contract) Iochim included a designated home that would belong to Anna if he should meet with some misfortune. His own home was near the Probatic pool close to the temple. Along came the Mohar (payment to her parents) and a note that her folks would read to Anna. It promised to make her queen of his world. Her soul would dance with joy when he announced his arrival by having one of his companions blow the Shofar.(A wind instrument made from a Ram’s horn.) It advised her that her suitor was coming to call. Love did not take long to develop into full blossom by mutual consent.

Fifty wondrous years filled their lives with countless blessings and cheerful memories. In spite of all their joyful efforts they remained childless. Anna became castigated on two fronts. She blamed herself for being barren. Knowing without doubt that Iochim had done his best to plant seed in her womb to bear no result. Her prayers were the kind that moved mountains and her suffering for lack of a child was worse than death.

She knew without being told that her husband would be held accountable. She suffered agony for the pain and disgrace she caused Iochim to endure. Iochim was dishonored by his council members for not producing a child. All men of standing contributed to the population with their off spring. He was no longer allowed to contribute to the council’s coffers. Furthermore he was banned from their gatherings. He descended from the tribe of David and bore his ancestry with justified pride. Anna (Channah, in Hebrew meaning favor or grace.) was the daughter of Matthan, a priest from the tribe of Levi. Joachim and Anna made an admirable pair and their standing in the community was well noted. Respected and admired they lived well within their social circle. They owned a large comfortable house in Jerusalem with a staff to maintain the home and bring comfort to their lives. Somehow they managed to buy a second home close to Gethsemane, the garden of olives. not far from Jerusalem. Ioachim was an honorable man and his flocks provided a comfortable life. He sheared his sheep and sold the wool to the highest bidder. People from all over the region came to milk his carefully chosen stock and buy what they produced. He sold goats for their meat, sun cured skins for leather and milk for cheeses. Lambs and kid goats for sacrificial purposes were common sales from his flocks. All his endeavors paid him well and he was never without coins in his purse. He shared his good fortune with God. He gave one third of his earnings to the poor; one third went to the temple while he and Anna lived on the remaining one third. And yet they never lacked for anything except a family to call their own. In painful shame Joachim took his flocks and went into isolation in the desert. There he prayed with soul wrenching strength that God deliver him from the shame he bore and grant him a child. He lived in bitter solace away from his loving wife of a lifetime. Perhaps in the desert he cleansed his soul of unwanted debris and became worthy. He found no comfort in his increasing flocks, the food provided and the good pastures laid before him. With a small campfire burning he listened to his animals baying in the night. He knelt before the infinite sky and prayed to God once again. Within his soul, he knew God would not abandon him during this awful time of need and heart torn grief for his home life. His life with Anna had been a paradise on earth. Unmeasured love abounded in their union and yet no child came forth. A purple canopy sparkling with countless stars hosted the visiting angel, Gabriel. The messenger of God stood before the frightened shepherd, Joachim. A fearsome apparition even to a braver man. Intimidated by the awesome presence of Gabriel, Joachim bowed to the ground like a scared child. “Rise” the angel spoke. “I bring glad tidings from the Lord, our God. Round up your flocks and make haste to the gates of Jerusalem. Your wife awaits you there and you will be father to a baby girl.” Joachim had reason to question his sanity. Had he actually seen Gabriel or was it a wishful dream? He resolved to believe that God would not torture him further without just cause. Anna’s loneliness for Iochim was a penalty she suffered nightly. The sun did not shine in Iochim’s absence. During a night without sleep Anna had an equal vision and met her exhausted, bearded and dust covered husband in unfathomed joy by the gates of Jerusalem. It was a reunion that rang the bells in heaven. And in due course their child came forth as foretold by Gabriel. Joachim and Anna were devoted to the God of Abraham without recourse. Together they decided to return the child to the service of their God. She was presented to the priest Zachariah at the age of three. She grew up in the guarded company of other girls at the temple. They were all students preparing for their future. And so the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus would develop in total reverence and devotion to the words of her parent’s God. Her heart was full of it. After their faithful service to God and the temple it was customary to give the temple virgins to worthy men. Mary of Nazareth could not marry just anybody. It was said that she went into the Holy of Holies to ask God for guidance. When the angel Gabriel came to her and announced that she was in favor of the Lord and would bear a child she would name Jesus, she said,” How can that be? I have never known a man. I am innocent of sin.” Then she realized that who spoke to her was the Lord’s messenger. Her parents had been visited by him. And she owed her birth to the miracle Gabriel delivered. There remained no questions in her heart as she proclaimed. “Let it be done to me as you will.” At that early age, she was God’s willing servant. Close to the age of fourteen, she was betrothed to an older man named Joseph. A craftsman by trade. It was the accepted thing of the time.

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found

favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in

your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his

name Jesus. He will be called great, and will be

called the son of the most high; and the Lord

God will give him the throne of his father

David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob

forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.

Luke 1: 30-33  NIV

Ioachim passed away at the age of 80. Anna was struck by grief beyond consoling. She felt her heart had been ripped out and could not find reason to stay alive. Nights were an agony of despair and soul tearing loneliness for her husband. She walked the darkened corridors of her home countless times and prayed she would find Joachim working at his desk as he often did. For close to six years she visited Mary at the temple and retold her life story to her daughter many times. She instructed Mary to always follow the Lord’s will.  Once knowing she had done all she could for her daughter, she gave up the will to live. There was nothing to fill her life without Joachim. She had seen to the long range care of Mary. In her heart she felt secure that Mary would develop into a fine young lady and would serve God as she and Joachim had faithfully done. She arranged for Mary to own their family home in Jerusalem and the second home near Gethsemane. What funds were raised from the sale of Joachim’s flocks had been put in safe storage. Anne was by no means poor. She had stored wealth and Mary would not want. Her dowry was far from meager, it was impressive. Anna requested her grave be next to her husband that they may be together for all eternity. She was 79.  Young Mary was about 10 years old when she became an orphan and close to the age of fourteen, she moved into her parent’s home in Jerusalem.” After that long story, serou took the time to catch his breath as well as re-gather his thoughts.

The afternoon was an unblemished tapestry of Nature comprised of an unusually cool breeze from the desert scented by moist sand and wild flowers. It had rained somewhere in the distance. Slowly stray fleecy clouds meandered across a background of hazy pale blue. Birds that made their home in the gardens of Serou were busy with the task of providing for their young. The grounds and patio behind Tremiyo’s home were not the Garden of Eden but it had a close resemblance. The guests at this ambience of peace and well being enjoyed the day as well as each other’s company. Tremiyo prepared to verbally educate his son-in-law. While watching Senobia play with the children nearby. He had prayed for this scene a hundred or more times before and here it was, properly delivered and displayed to fill his heart with joy. From time to time Tremiyo would think of his deceased wife, Sintia. Senobia’s biological mother and silently wished she were here to see the result of their love. Sintia was killed by kidnappers and her memory visited Tremiyo’s mind often as a dream unfulfilled. A story without a loving end. A chapter in his life that never gathered dust.

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