by Caryll Houselander 1953
There was always the Crowd. Even when he lay folded in the darkness of Mary’s womb, she carried him into the crowded city of Bethlehem to be born.
There was a loud voice in the streets surrounding the stable. The clinking of glasses, the shouts, the greeting of friends, the tramping of feet and clatter of hoofs, laughter and snatches of song.
Only his Mother possessed silence. And in her silence under the noise of the crowd, she heard the sound of a stream flowing underground, and breaking through darkness to water the earth. And she heard the little snap of a bursting seed, and the sound of a bud breaking. She heard the sound of the waters of birth.
Then the sound of water and opening buds and seed pushing into the light became the thin cry of the newly born, and the thin cry was the Word.
She, his Mother, always sought for him in the crowd. It was in the crowd coming home from Jerusalem that she lost, and sought her son for the first time. And it was as one of the crowd, seeking him again in the city she heard him say - “They who do the will of my Father in Heaven are my brother and sister and mother!”
There was always the crowd, thronging the mountain side and the sea shore and the wilderness, to hear the word. And she was always there as one of the crowd, she, who had heard the first cry, and taught the Word his first word, and stored all his words in her heart. Now the Lord spoke of living streams in which those who are dead should be born again, and the single seed cast into the earth that should fill the fields for the harvesting with wheat for living bread.
Some of them questioned him: “How can these things be?” “This is a hard saying and how shall we return to our mother’s womb and be born again?” And she remembered that she too had said “How can this thing be?”
And then that crowded night in the city of Bethlehem. Would all men spark from the seed of light that had flowered from her?
There was the crowd who threw their garments under his feet, children thronging his way with palms in their hands, to greet his entry into Jerusalem when he came to die, and then, the crowd outside the judgment hall, crying aloud for his blood - “Crucify! Crucify!” and those who hustled each other, and pushed their way in the narrow street when they led him by on the way to Golgotha. And always Mary his Mother, following, seeking her lost child in the crowd.
When he died on the Cross the crowds were there, climbing the hill, as they did when first he came from Nazareth, to utter the word of his Father’s love in the broad speech of a Nazarene. But now they came to deride, to mock at him and to curse, they came to silence the Word!
Mary, his Mother, stood at the foot of the Cross. She heard the seed that had shone in her womb falling into the ground, and the sound of a great wind sweeping the red harvests from end to end of the world.
And she heard the sound of his blood, that was hers, like the sound of a great sea flowing in waves of light over the world’s darkness, flowing down the hillside, through the holy city, and all the cities, all over the world till the end of time, flooding the souls of men with the waters of life. Mary, the Mother of God, looked from the night to a million million dawns, whose rising suns were a million million Hosts.
And she saw the crowds, coming again to the mountain side from the ends of the earth, and the end of time.
She saw the cities of all the world, and the glory of them from the mountain where he had died.
And she sought for her son who was lost, and found him there in the crowd. He was there because exiles were there, those who fled from murder and had nowhere to lay their heads. He was there, because kings were there, whose crowns were crowns of thorn. He was there, because priests were there, who were there to be sacrificed. He was there, because those who were poor were there, and they were clothed in the iridescence of flowers in dew reflecting the rising sun. He was there because children were there, who looked at her with her child’s shadowless eyes.
She heard the breaking of the waters of birth.
And then the Word was silent. The sound of the great wind and the sea became the silence of the Word. She heard only the sound of the little stream that broke from his side.
But mankind born again was laid in her arms, in the body of her dead child.