Joachim and Anna approached the temple. A little girl of three years old was sitting comfortably on Joachim’s shoulders. She had a sweet little face, with warm brown eyes, framed by chestnut curls.
They stopped momentarily at the foot of the temple.
Anna met Joachim’s eyes. Hers were starting to well with tears at the impending goodbye with their beloved daughter.
Mary was literally a godsend, an answer to their fervent prayers over the years. They had promised the Lord that if He would favour them with a child, they would consecrate the child to His service.
Three years ago, Anna had given birth to a baby girl. They named her Mary, after one of the angels who had ministered to Anna. Incidentally, the name Mary , also meant “wished for child”
Mary was sweet. Even at the age where most toddlers were a handful, she was docile as a dove.Joachim had often pondered over what the angel had meant when he said their child would be full of grace. Other than her sweet temperament, Mary seemed like any other child..
However, all who had met her cannot help but wonder at the aura of joy that radiates from her. A close family friend had once commented that being with Mary was like having sunlight burst through the clouds. It was as if she was constantly connected to a higher benevolent power of love, which gave her that radiant aura of goodness, evident even at her tender age.
Joachim put Mary down and wrapped his arm around Anna’s shoulders.
“Hush, my dear, for today is a joyous day to fulfill our promise and give thanks to our Lord. ”
Anna sniffled “I’m sorry , Joaquim. It’s just that…”
she paused to compose herself.
“ Mary is still so young and we’ve never been apart from her since she was born.” She bent down to give Mary a fierce hug, taking in the sweet smell of her hair and trying to memorise the feel of her child’s body in her arms.
Joachim nodded in understanding. Though seemingly calm, he was also struggling to keep his emotions in check.
His darling little girl, just weaned from her mother. Would she fare well without her parents? Thankfully, the rogue priest, Ruben was no longer serving at the temple. He had been caught stealing from the temple’s coffers and given his marching orders. He would be sick with worry everyday if Mary was under the charge of someone like him.
But still… Mary was on the puny side for her age and very guile less. Would the older Virgins at the temple treat her kindly? Children, being still in need of formation could be cruel at times. He grimaced as he recalled the innumerable pranks he had played on his younger siblings in his childhood. It was only by the grace of God that he had not caused any grievous harm.
As he got lost in his sea of thoughts, two words suddenly came to mind
Yes, God would provide. Just as He had done three years ago. They could certainly entrust her to their Lord, the God who never slumbers. He will be her defender.
Encouraged by that thought, Joachim reached for Anna’s hands.
“Anna, let’s pray over Mary”
Joining both their hands together , they closed their eyes and offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God and surrendered their beloved child to His hands.
A wave of peace washed over them as they lifted up their prayers. They felt strengthened to face the impending farewell and days without Mary by their sides.
When they opened their eyes, Mary was no longer sandwiched between them.
“Where’s Mary?” They looked at each other incredulously , trying not to panic.
Just then, they heard her laughter . They quickly glanced towards that direction and gasped simultaneously.
Mary was making her way effortlessly up the gigantic temple steps, which were difficult to negotiate, even for adults .Her face was radiant with joy. She seemed to be enthralled with something next to her, even though she was apparently alone. It was as if she was being helped up the steps by loving invisible hands.
At this sight, Anna and Joachim smiled at each other as they followed closely behind. Somehow, they knew Mary would be more than alright.