Weekend Ponderings: Sleep Deprivation

samueleli1To be honest, I stumbled through the first weeks of parenthood. The three kids never slept more than four hours at a time — and never the same four hours between them. Getting two consecutive hours of sleep was nothing short of a miracle. Getting more than three meant resorting to childcare.

And yet, in the middle of the night I experienced some of the unexpected perks of motherhood as well. Alone in their rooms, the children called for me and let me take care of them. I could rock them. Hold them. Sing to them. Love them. During the day, they huddled together and endured my efforts to tend to their needs. At night, I was truly “the mommy.”

This weekend’s reading from the book of First Samuel (3:3-10) reminded me of those early morning/late night encounters. Three times, young Samuel heard a voice, and ran to the side of his spiritual father, Eli. “Here I am! …” and then, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

Eli’s sons were unjust men, who brought great grief to their father and their God. It was Samuel, whose parents lovingly dropped him off at the Temple when he was still a small boy, who received the spiritual heritage of that great high priest. The old man must have felt like a failure on many levels — how could he explain the moral depravity of his own children? Yet, when God gave him a second chance in the person of young Samuel, Eli took it.

“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” How often does God give us a second, unexpected chance? How many times have we gotten bogged down in our own sense of failure … and then catch a whiff of grace? In the still of the night, as we soothe our children and doze on the edge of dreamland, will we catch that divine whisper as well?

“Speak…”

Weekend Ponderings…

simeon-and-annaIn the coming year, I’d like to spend more time reflecting on the Scriptures through the lens of extraordinary motherhood.

Throughout the Gospels, we encounter figures who are largely hidden, taking center stage for the briefest moments before returning to the shadows. Their reward, you see, was not an earthly one … any more than ours is. And yet, there is much we can learn from them if we only have “ears to hear.”

And so, on this the last weekend of the year, I introduce you to one of the EMs of the Gospel: Anna the Prophetess. From this weekend’s readings, taken from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke:

There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

According to tradition (as recorded in the “Protoevangelium of James” par 7), Joachim and Anne (called “Anna” in this account) took their precious daughter Mary to the Temple at the tender age of three. There she remained, learning to serve God with purity of heart until she was twelve, when her protector Joseph was selected.

In today’s Gospel, we read of Anna — a widow who remained in the Temple after being widowed as a young bride.  When she saw Mary enter with her Son and husband, Anna was irresistibly drawn to the Holy Family. Was it simply the guidance of the Holy Spirit … Or was it something else?

Could it be that, as a young widow, Anna had tended to young Mary in the Temple, as her own spiritual daughter? Did she teach her to pray, and guide the delicate Rose of Sharon to attain full bloom? Was she for Mary … an extraordinary mother? And was it this attachment … that caused Anna to see with the eyes of faith the special calling God had given not only this beautiful young woman, but her Son as well?