by Herbert O’Driscoll
Scriptures for Reading: Luke 1:39-56
Dearest Cousin Elizabeth,
I apologize for not sending this letter earlier. I was exhausted from the journey home and simply had to rest for the last few days.
I think about you and pray for you constantly because I know you were very near to giving birth when I had to leave. As you know, I had no choice when the caravan came through the village and told us there wouldn’t be another for nearly a month. However I could see that you had friends ready to help so I’m assuming my prayers for you have been answered.
My journey, thank God, was safe and uneventful. I have always been led to believe that Samaria could be unfriendly and even dangerous. Instead I found much friendship from the villages we passed through.
The most fascinating part of my journey home was to see Sepphoris. Our caravan left me off there because it was going on around the lake and wasn’t going to go through Nazareth. You and Zechariah have never seen it but you can imagine what its like when I tell you it’s the headquarters for the Roman administration of Galilee. Beautiful streets and houses, lovely mosaics, chariots coming and going everywhere. But you will never guess the really wonderful thing that happened. Joseph was there to meet me! I was hoping he could but we were not sure it was possible. As I told you, Sepphoris is only two hours walk from Nazareth and the army contract that he’s been working on has been extended .
To have a few days together was wonderful. Sepphoris is big enough that hardly anybody knew us. Well, a few did, because, like my Joseph they had come over from Nazareth to find jobs. The really nice thing about meeting them – and it made all the difference for me – was that because they were friends of Joseph, and because they had heard from him that we were going to marry, they could not have been more friendly. That meant so much to me because I had been nervous about going back to the village.
Elizabeth, I will never be able to thank you for those wonderful weeks you gave me, especially in those first few days after I arrived sick and miserable from the journey. What helped was that you were overjoyed about your own pregnancy. I could see it in your face and hear it in your voice when you came to the door to meet me. I will never forget the hug you gave me!
By now you may have given birth. Do please write soon. Send the letter with the next caravan. I’ve given you the name of the street and the construction site in Sepphoris – so that Joseph will get it and bring it to me. Remember, I want to know everything. All I know at the moment is that Zechariah wants it to be a boy and wants him called John.
Don’t forget to tell me how Zechariah is. When I left he seemed to be improving from that experience in the Temple that robbed him of his speech. My hope and prayer is that he may be so overjoyed when you give birth that it may give him back his voice again!
Since coming home I have learned how wonderful it is to have friends. Joseph’s family have rallied around us, and even though I am sure that there are those in the village who are prepared to be hurtful – as you yourself warned me would be the case – I feel surrounded by love.
The only thing that I’m worried about is a rumour that Joseph tells me is going around in Sepphoris. He’s heard from one of the army contractors that the authorities in Rome may be planning an imperial census. If it becomes true, then we will all – well, all heads of families – have to go back to their own area. If this comes true, Joseph will have to go back south to the Bethlehem area. I hope against hope that this doesn’t happen before I give birth. The journey will be ghastly.
Elizabeth, I must end, but not without reminding you of our speaking of our angels. Sometimes when I find it hard to sleep my angel comes. Not that I see anything of course, just that in the darkness I’m aware of a presence. I don’t mean the babe, although he is very much a presence inside me! But this other presence is always reassuring and somehow familiar, as if we had met before. Sometimes I think I hear a quiet voice saying what he said the first time. “Do not be afraid Mary”, and when I hear that, sleep comes.
Dear Elizabeth, my love to you and to Zachariah and the babe. Who knows, maybe our sons will meet one day. Maybe they will do great things together. Let it be as God wills.
Your loving cousin.