Advent: 17 December

Tracy Niven
Tuesday 19 December 2023

Good morning…

on the third Sunday of Advent.  Today we have a second haiku and image reflecting on the Presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple, this time focussing on words of Simeon to Mary: “and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  These words have been understood as referring to Mary’s grief at the death of Jesus on the cross.  But they have been used in ways that I suspect neither Simeon or Luke would have anticipated.  I’ve been reading an article by the late Hilary Mantel called “The Virgin and I: Marian Devotion” for Turning Pages, the staff discussion group which will meet later this week.  In it, Mantel writes of Mary in her Catholic childhood: “It was because of her purity that you had to guard your darker thoughts; each of your little sins was, you were assured, a sword piercing her heart.”  (If you are a member of staff interested in knowing more about Turning Pages, which meets monthly to discuss readings in faith and spirituality, let me know.)

The image below may indeed relate Simeon’s prophetic words with morality.  It shows a sword piercing Mary’s heart, but is from a wood carving from Vilnius, Lithuania, to commemorate the introduction of temperance in 1858, i.e. the avoidance of alcohol.  I saw it in the National Museum of Lithuania, in Vilnius.

The haiku changes the focus from morality to Mary’s experience.

Amid the soft light,
Simeon saw the sharpness
of a mother’s grief


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