LVCAS MYSTERY PLAY
AODH DE BLACAM
"Behold Thy Mother"
Paul of Tarsus.
SCENE : The house of St. John the Evangelist in Jerusalem. TIME : A.D. 47.
Soft liturgical singing is heard as the curtain rises, revealing an ante-chamber. The background is made by two dark curtains, edged with the Greek key-pattern, and meeting at the centre. A throne-like chair, with a cross in the back of it, is at the right, a stool at the left.
Four tall candles are being lit by Cleophas, a servant, who bows. as he passes the meeting of the curtains, at though the altar were behind them. As he lights the last candle, at the Gospel side, a knocking is heard.
At the same time the singing within ceases. Cleophas lays down his taper and opens the door at the left. W e hear the noise of the street—which ceases when the door is closed again.
On the opening of the door, a dark-bearded, energetic man in Roman paenula enters, followed by a young man in a dalmatic, who carries books in a satchel.
THE BEARDED MAN : Grace be to this house, and peace from God the Father and from Our Lord Jesus Christ.
CLEOPHAA (bowing humbly) : To whom is glory for ever and ever. Amen.
THE BEARDED MAN: My son—have we arrived safely at the house of the Bishop John, son of Zebedee?
CLEOPHAS; This is the apostle's house. Whom does my master welcome to his roof?
THE BEARDED MAN : Tell your holy master, my son, that Paul of Tarsus has returned to Jerusalem from Antioch, after journeying to Cyprus and Asia in the apostolic work; and now waits upon him.
CLEOPHAS (starting with surprise as he hears St. Paul's name): I hear and obey.
(He turns, bows towards the hidden altar as he passes th.e centre, and goes out. Paul sits on the stool and addresses the young man, who is looking with wonder at the chamber.)
PAUL: Yes, Luke, this is the house of John, that beloved disciple, whom the Lord used to call the Son of Thunder. His was the fiery spirit! When the city of the Samaritans would not receive the Lord, John was so indignant that he wished to call flames from heaven to consume it. You will see that he learnt the Master's lesson well. He is as gentle now as a little child.
Lune : It is a rare privilege to come Into the house and the presence of the disciple whom He loved—who lay in His bosom on that last night before His agony.
(He, is watching for Saint John's appearance as he speaks.) PAUL: You say well; but I have more to tell you, and this is secret. Luxe: Yes, master.
PAUL: You have heard how the Blessed Mother stood at the foot of the cross when the Lord hung there in His dying agony, and how John was with her. To her, before He died, the Lord said : "Behold thy son," and after that he said to John : " Behold thy mother."
Luxe : Yes, I know that the Lord committed Our Lady to the disciple whom He loved.
Pam: And John was as a son to her ever since, and she to him as a mother. Fifteen years have passed, and they have dwelt here—
Lune: Here! Our Lady! The Blessed Mother dwelling here!
PAUL: Even so, under the roof of her adopted son, and in his loving care.
(Luke is startled and anxious and clasps his hands nervously.)
It is a secret to the world, because of the Jews, but no secret to the faithful. Mary, the Mother of the Lord, dwells in this house.
/Arm; (awed) : In this house! Then this is Heaven's ante-chamber. But dismiss me now, I beg you; for I am afraid to remain here.
PAUL: My good Luke, why should you fear?
Luxe: I fear that she—Our Lady—might enter this room, and how should I dare to stand before her—to trespass on her holy presence? Oh, I fear her!
PAUL: If you did not fear, 1 would dismiss you; but because you fear, I bid you stay. It is my purpose that you should speak with the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lunt: Speak with her!
PAUL: And for a purpose. I would have you hear from her own lips the story of Our Lord's coming, that you may write it for the better know ledge of all Christian people. You shall write the Gospel, Luke, as you have heard it from those who walked with the Master. This part of His story you shall receive even from His Mother.
Luxe (trembling) : I am your scribe. If you put me. under obedience I must do what you command—hut how shall I write in the presence of her whom the angels of Heaven must fear?
PAM. (rising and kindly laying a hand on Luke's shoulder) : My dear son, you need not fear. MI will be well with you; for this is God's will. And now see who comes. It is he whom Jesus loved. It is John, the son of Zebedee, the beloved disciple.
(Saint John enters, attended by Cleophas. He is vested in a Roman cope, with soft mitre. and leans on his pastoral staff. His hair is snow-white, his manner ineffably gentle. He walks across the chamber, bowing towards the hidden altar, and stands before Paul and Luke, whose heads are bowed. Cleophas takes the staff from John.)
JOHN: You are welcome, Paul of Tarsus, apostle of the Lord. to this my house in Jerusalem.
Paul.: I come in His name.
(They embrace, as at the Pa.r in the M'ass.) Jou; : Pax tecutn.
PAM: Et (-on spiritu tuo.
JOHN (turning to Luke) : And who is this who comes with you, good Brother Paul?
PAUL: This is Luke the scribe, who joined me. when I reached his native city of Antioch, as my helper. He is a physician nd a Greek, but he has given up all things else to aid me in the labours of the mission. JoHN (to Luke, most gently) : You are welcome, my child. The Lord will reward you sevenfold for all that you have given up for Him.
(Luke kneels to kiss John's ring.) Pstm: Luke also is a painter of portraits, of no small skill.
JOHN (putting Luke at his ease) : The Greeks are men of many talents—a brilliant people.
LUKE: But has not the Lord said, holy Father, that from the Jew cometh salvation?
JoaN : When He was in Samaria, the Lord spoke those words, and he said : "But the hour cometh when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth."
(His voice shakes.)
PAUL: You are weary, dear Father in God. Will you not let Brother Luke, our beloved physician, prescribe for you?
LUKE (with a physician's tenderness) : You must rest, you must husband your strength.
JOHN (sitting on the stool) : There is no prescription that can lift the burden of the years—but I ask no more than strength to live while my great charge remains to be fulfilled.
PAUL: You mean the care of . . . Our Lady?
JOHN : God surely will not let me die while she is living? PAUL: In His mercy, no. But she—what of her?
JOHN : The Blessed Mother is as she was ever—full of grace, full of the memory of Him, her Son that was the Word made Flesh, when He dwelt among us, and ,the world knew Him not. Every day, she lives again that clay, the day of Calvary— PAUL: God pity her. Luxe: Does she pine?
JOHN: She pines to be with Him again. She lives in the world, but her heart is in Heaven. She is frail of body, but she lives and the life in her is still, like a flame that burns so keenly that it is almost invisible. Daily from the sixth hour to the ninth—the hours that our dear Lord suffered upon the Cross—she kneels before that same Cross with her eyes raised to the Crown of Thorns which He wore upon that cruel throne. She scarcely breathes. For three long hours, in silent suffering, she watches the empty Cross as once she watched it when her Son was dying there. I do not know how she can suffer so, and yet not die.
How could the memory ever grow dim in her? The world itself will remember His death, even to the world's end. For us, it was our God who died there : but for her, He was also her Son. Dear Father in God, you will entreat her for Luke's sake, will you not? I have somewhat to ask of her for him, while yet she lives on earth.
JOHN : I will ask whatever you wish.
"A gong sounds within.)
Ah, the hours are finished. Now will she leave the foot of the Cross, and you shall see her.
(He rises, and takes the pastoral staff from Cleophas; who, at his signal, opens the curtain.
Ve see a bare altar; above it the Cross itself with the nails, and fastened at the crux the Crown of Thome. MARY is kneeling at the upper step of the altar, gazing at the Crown of Thorns, enrapt. On either hand, on a lower step, kneel her two handmaids, garbed like nuns, their heads bowed.
As the gong sounds again, MARY rises slowly and turns, looking with unseeing gaze towards us. Her maidens rise and with her descend,' accompanying her to the great chair at the right, where she sits enthroned.
The apostles watch with profound reverence.)
Pant (in an awed whisper): Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with I bee ; blessed art thou among women.
Luxe (in the same tone) : And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
JOHN (standing before them, staff In hand, in a louder voice): Mother, these who have conic to pay their reverence to you are Paul of Tarsus, who has made many converts to the faith in Cyprus; and Luke, his scribe, one of the first-born of the faith among the gentiles.
MARY (with a slight inclination, but without turning her gaze, as Paul and Luke bow low): God bless you both. His servants are ever welcome.
Jong: I think that Brother Paul has a favour to beg of you, dear Mother.
MARY: Whatever God's children ask of me in His name, shall T not rejoice to give it always?
JOHN (to Paul) : Speak, brother.
PAUL: Oh, holy Mother. I ask this of you for Luke, my son in God. He is a Greek and he is a scribe, and he wishes to write a Gospel that shall be read by his own people, the gentiles, though with God there is neither Jew nor Gentile henceforward. Luke would fain receive from your own lips the story of the coming of our Blessed Lord.
Lune (in nervous surprise) : Ah, master, how shall I do thie thing?
PAUL: Take your tablets and write.
(More kindly. Have no fear.
(Luke slowly draws hei writing materials from his pouch, while MARY'S regard terns upon him. MARY indicates the stool with her gaze and Luke sits. John and Paul are behind him.)
MANY: If it be pleasing to God, 1 will tell you, in order that all generations may glorify Him.
(Her handmaids sit at her feet and Cleophas kneels, gazing on her.)
MARY (continuing after a pause) : In the days of Herod, the King of Judea, I
dwelt with my parents, Joachim and Anna, in that little city
of Galilee, which is called Nazareth. Ah, Nazareth upon the hills; that look on Galilee! Tho cypresses are dark about houses white as snow, and peace is ever there.
It was in Nazareth that my parents espoused me to Joseph, the carpenter, of the house of David : good Joseph who was so kind, so patient, so selfless.
Now, one day as I prayed, there was light that was brighter than the sunlight before rne, and I saw the Angel of the salutation, and the Angel said . . .
ALL THE Dai:Nina (in a whisper) : " Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women."
MARY: I was troubled at his saying and wondered at his words; and he said— he said : " Fear not, Mary; for thou hest found grace with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive and shalt bring forth a Son; and thou shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High . . . and of His kingdom there shall be no end."
And I said : "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word."
(MARY is silent, as if praying, until John speaks.) JOHN : Was it thereafter that you uttered your hymn of praise, Mother?
MARY: It was when I dwelt with my cousin Elizabeth, in her house upon the hills of Jude., and she prophesied concerning the Son that I should bear. Then did I say (reciting, as if in mentOry): My soul doth magnify the Lord— HANDMAIDS (in response) : And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. MARY: Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaidHANDstAms: For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. MART: Because He that is mighty bath done great things to me—
HANDMAIDS : And holy is His name.
Au: And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him.
MARTI In those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled; and every man must go to his own city. Joseph my spouse took me therefore from Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem; for he was of the royal clan of David.
Ah me, but we were troubled when we came by the crowded road into the little city, that was thronged to the gates; for there was no inn that would receive us, and we were sent from door to door. and every door was closed. The time had come that my little son should be born, and—Joseph, kind Joseph, how I grieved for him in his grief as the doors were closed upon us! Little, ah little those people knew, on what they shut their house!
T118 HANDMAIDS: Och, och, och!
MARY: And at length, Joseph in despair brought me into the byres of one great house, and there among the beasts of the field he made for me a bed of straw. . . . And my little Son was born . . and we wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, I remember His smile, and the little hands at my breast. .
(MARY sighs and is silent a while.)
Joisx (softly) : And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us. He was in the world and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came into His own, and His own received Him not.
Mass: Towards dawn, there came certain shepherds, simple, kindly men, with a strange story. They said that they had been watching their sheep upon the frosty hills beside Bethlehem, and suddenly a bright light shone among the stars and an angel was before them, and he said: " Fear not; for behold I bring you tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people : for this day is born to you a Saviour, who is the Christ the Lord, in the city of David."
And the angel told them how they would find the new-born child, my Son, in swaddling clothes in the manger. . . .
And suddenly, the shepherds said, there was a multitude of the angelic host above them, praising God and singing, and they said . . .
JOHN AND PAUL: "Glory to God in the highest."
THE HANDMAIDS: "And on earth peace to men of good will."
MART: After eight days, my little Son was circumcised according to the law of our people, and He was named Jesus. We carried Him up from Bethlehem into Jerusalem, the holy city, to present Him in the Temple. It was then that holy Simeon, an aged man, took the Babe into his arms and blessed God and said: "Now doet thou dismiss thy servant, 0 Lord, in peace, because my eyes have seen thy salvation."
And to me he said: And thy own soul a sword shall pierce." We wondered, Joseph and 1, at these sayings by the angels and holy ones in Israel; I kept all these words in my heart. and pondered them.
LUKE (looking up reverently): Were you in danger in those days, holy Mother of Jesus?
MARY: In danger from Herod the King of Judea, a man of blood. in those days, like the kindly shepherds of the hills, there came three Kings of the East, to honour my Son. They were led by a strange star, and rode from their strange lands on camels, asking as they went : "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?"— for we have seen His star in the east and have come to adore Him."
They came into our humble home, those jewelled kings of the East, and they knelt before the cot where my little Son lay, and they laid before Him gifts in precious caskets, gifts of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
JOHN: The King of Tarsus brought gold, because the Child was a King. PAUL: The King of Arabia brought frankincense because the Child was God.
MARY: And good Balthasar, King of Saba, brought myrrh . . . because some day . . my Child must die. Herod the King would have slain my Son even then, the Babe in my arms. He heard the prophecy of the Kings of the East, and he sent his soldiers into Bethlehem to seek and slay the Child of whom the wise Kings spoke. Joseph saved us at that time; for he was warned by an angel as he slept, and he rose and took my Son and me by the desert road into Egypt, and so we escaped the swords.
PAUL: And after a time, Joseph brought you back to Nazareth?
MARY: To Nazareth again, when the danger was past; and there my Son grew and waxed strong, full of wisdom : and the grace of God was in Him. Those were happy days and years, as we dwelt together, we three. Daily my Son helped Joseph in his carpentry at the bench. . . . He made this very chair in which I sit—made it for me, that I might sit at my ease in the evenings, when the day's work was done.
So good He was, so childlike, so devoted and obedient—He who was the Son of God.
(MARY'S voice is trembling, and the hearers sigh.) FM? HANDMAID: Will you tell us more of those days, holy Mother? Secoare HANDMAID : The days when your Son was with you?
MARY : Those days and those years are all mine and Joseph's, and only once my Son warned us that He would not be with us always. It was when we went to Jerusalem in His twelfth year. When we returned. He remained behind in the Temple, and we thought that He was lost.
We found Him, Joseph and I, found Him among the learned men talking of holy things with wisdom that they wondered at; and I said to Him : " Why hest thou done so to us, Son? We have sought thee sorrowing." I did not understand His answer then : "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?"
I kept these words in my heart as He grew in years and in wisdom and grace. until thirty years—ah, thirty happy years— had passed.
Then it was that John, the son of my cousin Elizabeth, was preaching in the Jordan country and baptising the people. My Son arose one day, when the sunlight was on the land, and He said: " Mother, I must go to the Jordan."
Then I knew that. our time of peace was done. Thirty years He had lived with Joseph and me, in our humble, happy home, and now there was a purpose on His face that told me that He was setting about His great work.
He went from our home to be baptized by John at the river and then to fast in the desert; and afterwards to work and travel and preach and teach.
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