Within the Sanctuary

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Mary, Beloved of God

Offered by Camille Hamilton Adams Helminski
Forthcoming from Sweet Lady Press

Chapter II: Within the Sanctuary

This is part of the tidings of the Unseen, beyond the reach of your perception,
which We reveal to you:
for you were not with them when they threw reeds
to know which of them should be the guardian caregiver of Maryam,
and you were not with them when they contended with one another about it.

[Quran, Surah al ‘Imran 3:44]

When the right moment arrived, and Anna knew it to be the moment, she brought her dear daughter, Mary, to the Temple to dedicate her for Temple services. According to the Proto-Evangelium of James, Maryam was three years old. The story is told of her slipping away from her mother and immediately striding up the stairs of the Temple; she did not look back, so readily eager and ineluctably drawn was she to the Holy Sanctuary.

But she stole away from them,
so small, slipping from their grasp
to enter her destiny, which was loftier than the temple
and already surpassed the edifice in perfection.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke[1]

All the priests of the Temple then vied to be the guardian and caretaker of this luminous child. They cast lots with reeds to see to whom this honor would fall. Several Islamic scholars relate that this casting of reeds took place at the River Jordan. The reeds thrown by all the other priests sank; only the reed of Zachariah remained afloat and followed the current of the water to the sea. In this, they all witnessed a clear sign, and so Zachariah, her maternal uncle, the husband of her mother’s sister, Elizabeth,[2] was chosen to accompany young Mary on her journey of Spirit, to be her guardian while she would live in consecration to the Most Holy Temple. The Quran, too, speaks of how from an early age she spent much time alone in the sanctuary (mihrab), and describes, also, how she was attended devotedly by her cousin, Zakariyyah, from among the men who shared in service in the Temple.

The Holy of Holies, the most profound sanctuary within the Temple, was hidden by a veil separating the outer realm of this world and the hidden realm within. The inner realm was the realm of God and the angels. Priests who served in the Temple, clothed in white linen and barefoot, passed back and forth in service through the outer areas of the Temple, in their prayer and movement and song, continually integrating earth and Heaven. Mary, immersed in her devotions in her sanctuary, joined both within herself. Many Christians feel that verses from the Psalms of David, are portents of her beautiful spirit so attuned to her Lord:

God is in the midst of her, and she shall not be moved:
God shall help her, and that right early.

[The Bible, Psalms of David 46:5]

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His Name.

[The Bible, Psalms of David 96:1–2]

Mary, who was raised as a devoted Jewish practitioner, would have known the psalms of David well and rejoiced with the recitation of passages such as these:

O come, let us sing unto the Lord:
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His Presence with thanksgiving,
and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms.

[The Bible, Psalms of David 95:1–2]

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all you lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.
Know you that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise:
be thankful unto Him, and bless His Name.
For the Lord is good; His mercy is Everlasting;
and His Truth endures to all generations.

[The Bible, Psalms of David 100]

In her purity, her beauty of Spirit, her natural inclination to be intimately in prayer with her Lord, she has come to be known and honored especially by Christians and Muslims as “full of grace,” the pre-eminent exemplar of surrendered devotion to God. In the opening of the Proto-evangelium of James, Mary is called “the Temple of the Holy Spirit,” the “City of God,” of which glorious things are spoken,[3] the “Paradise of the Tree of Life.” She has come to be known among Christians as, herself, the “Ark of the Covenant,” holding the promise of God and the deepest wisdom. She is lauded as the “pure enclosed garden” of the Beloved that is spoken of in the “Song of Songs” of Prophet Solomon, of whose lineage through David, it is said that Jesus is descended.[4]

A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse;
a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits;
camphire, with spikenard, spikenard and saffron;
calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense;
myrrh and aloes with all the chief spices;
a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.
Awake O north wind; and come thou south;
blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.

[The Bible, Song of Songs 4:12][5]

In this beautiful Canticle of Canticles (the “Song of Songs”), the voice of Spirit refers to His bride as the “enclosed garden.” This “enclosed garden” has come to be understood as a description of Mary’s holy virginity (“enclosed”), as though she herself is the new Garden of Eden, radiant with the Divine Presence. When the second Song of Songs of the Old Testament declares, “I am the Rose of Sharon, and the Lily of the valleys,”[6] it is also understood by Christians to be referring to Mary, this radiant woman of God.

In the writings of Saint Brigid we find an intimate meditation on the Virgin Mary, “Our Lady,” as the mystic rose, Rosa Mystica.[7] Saint Brigid relates how there was a time when she was quite downcast because the enemies of Spirit seemed so powerful, and Mary came to her and told her to remember the rose among thorns:

“The rose,” Mary told her, “gives a fragrant odor;
it is beautiful to the sight, and tender to the touch,
and yet it grows among thorns—inimical to that beauty and tenderness.
So may, also, those who are mild, patient, and beautiful in virtue,
be put to the test among adversaries.…”

Saint Brigid could see that though the rose has such a welcoming fragrance, is beautiful to gaze upon, and is so soft to the touch, yet it grows and flourishes among prickly thorns with no pleasing scent. She understood from Mary’s instruction that the good and virtuous, even though they may be gentle in their patience, beautiful in their virtues, and sweetly fragrant in their good efforts, still, cannot become perfected except amid difficulties.

Since the fifteenth century, Franciscan practitioners (Christian followers of St. Francis) have prayed a cycle of prayer known as the “Crown Rosary” in remembrance of the “Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” The story is told of a young Franciscan friar who was particularly devoted to Mary and loved to pray the rosary of “Hail Mary’s” every day. One day, he was called to come for the evening meal but asked pardon to complete his rosary offering first which had been delayed. The superior granted his request. After some time, when he did not appear in the dining hall, two other friars were sent to call him. When they entered his room they beheld him kneeling before a vision of the Virgin Mary accompanied by two angels. They stood transfixed, witnessing how as he voiced each recitation in honor of Mary, a rose opened from his mouth and the angels carried it to her, until little by little a whole garland of roses crowned her head as she smiled upon him.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Carthusians[8] promoted the idea of sacred mysteries associated with the rose symbol and rose gardens as symbols of Mary. Many of the paintings of the Virgin Mary depict her within a rose garden, or with rose garlands around her, or conveying roses to the devoted near her.

In Muslim countries of the East, the rose has long been a source of inspiration and a metaphor for the truest heart of Beauty. The purest rose gathered for the making of essential rose oil—for which it takes 10,000 pounds of petals to distill a single pound of oil—is the rosa damascena, the “Rose of Damascus.” For centuries, it has been known worldwide for its therapeutic fragrance and healing qualities. In the lyric ghazals of Iran, of Persian poetry, it is the beauty of the rose that elicits the longing song of the nightingale. The grace of the Rose engenders the call of the lover, even as is the experience of the mystic whose heart is opened to call out in awe when contemplating the Beauty of God. Renowned are Shabistari’s Rose Garden of Secrets and the Rose Garden (Gulistan) of Saadi as gatherings of poetic reflections in gratitude and praise of the Beloved. So well-recognized has the poetry of such lovers of God become that the aphorisms of Saadi were even woven into children’s stories of Kentucky in the 1930’s: “Thy alchemist contentment be.”[9] Another of the great mystic poets so well-loved in America today, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, encourages us to wonder what God said to the rose that caused it to bloom in such full fragrance and beauty.

That which God said to the rose,
and caused it to laugh in full-blown beauty,
He said to my heart,
and made it a hundred times more beautiful.

[Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, Mathnawi III, 4129]

Beloved Mary, open and listening to God’s inspiration, bloomed with deepest grace. We recognize in Mary the perfect archetype of the mystic of Islam, in full surrender to the enlivening “Word” of God.

 And Allah received her with gracious acceptance and caused her to grow in beautiful purity . . .

[Quran, Surah al Imran 3: 37]

She grew up in the Temple, with luminous grace; another of the meanings of “Mary” is “illuminator.” In her turning inward, in service and in prayer, through her mother’s consecration (muharrar) of her dear being to God, she was emancipated within Truth (al-Haqq). As Jafar as-Sadiq described: “[Mary was] in emancipation from the bondage of the world (dunya) and its people. Muharrar means, “I have vowed to You what is in my womb as a sincere servant (‘abd) to You, not in servitude to any created being [including her own self (nafs)].”[10]

Al-Qushayri, commenting on Mary’s state said: “God (al-Haqq), all glory be to Him in His pre-eminent wisdom, has emancipated this one from the bondage of being preoccupied with all appearances (wujuh) and states (ahwal).”[11]

Both Christian tradition and Islamic tradition describe how Mary would remain for hours in her prayer chamber. Immersed in worship and prayer, even as it is said of the Prophet Muhammad, she would be standing in prayer until her feet were swollen. And as the Prophet Muhammad responded when asked why, she might, also, have answered, “Should I not be a grateful servant?” Among the passages of the Psalms that she might have sung in offering is this one:

Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I call to You all the day.
Bring joy to Your servant, for I put my trust in You.
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive;
abounding in love to all who call to You.

[The Bible, Psalms of David 86:3-5]

Maximus, in his biography of Mary, relates a passage from the Psalms that he feels speaks of her:

All glory of the daughter of the king is within.

[The Bible, Psalms of David 44:14]

He notes that “her virtues reveal not only inner riches, but also incomprehensible riches of the Holy Spirit whose abundance and beauty are inexpressible.”[12]

The Proto-evangelium describes how she “received food from the hand of an angel.”[13] Food given to her by the priests she would distribute to the poor. When Zachariah would visit her in her sanctuary, he would find her already provided with food, surprising food:

Whenever Zachariah visited her in the sanctuary,
he found her provided with food. He would ask,
“O Mary, from where did this come to you?”
She would answer: “It is from God;
see how God grants sustenance to whom He/She wills,
beyond all reckoning.”

[Quran, Surah ‘Imran 3:37]

This passage of the Quran is often seen inscribed over the mihrab (the prayer niche indicating the direction toward which one turns for the ritual prayer) in many mosques. This ayat (verse or “sign”) regarding Beloved Mary reminds us of her deep receptivity within the sanctuary (mihrab), sometime before the visit of the Angel Gabriel. Blessed Mary, in her complete immersion in prayer, is such an example for us of one who was profoundly receptive to Spirit, awaiting the arrival of the sustaining gifts of her Lord in every moment.

It is said that the Prophet Zachariah marveled at this miraculous food—in the middle of winter, fresh fruit of summer! The great grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Jafar as Sadiq, narrates this further relating that when she had grown to be a young woman, she would enter the sanctuary and cover herself so that no one saw her, but that when Zachariah would enter to tend to her care, he would find her already provided for, with summer fruits in winter and winter fruits in summer. One might, also, understand this as the fruits of the spirit. In the midst of the duress of cold constriction, the cheering fruits of summer, of the season of fullness were provided, and in the duress of the burning heat of summer, the refreshing fruits of winter—whether in contraction or expansion, her heart was soothed and sustained by her Lord. Zachariah was amazed, even Zachariah, himself of prophetic stature, one sincerely devoted to his Lord, marveled!

As Al-Nisaburi relates it:

He found her with food, that is to say from the openings of the Unseen (futuhat al-ghayb) that God feeds the elect of His servants who spend the night with Him, not with themselves nor creation, just as the Prophet said, “I spend the night with (‘inda) my Lord feeding me and giving me to drink.”[14]

As the Quran reminds us, sustenance is pouring towards us from our Sustainer: Truly in worship is our sustenance!

Yet go on reminding: for reminding benefits the faithful.
And I have created the invisible beings and human beings
only that they may worship Me.
No sustenance do I require of them
nor do I require that they should feed Me.
For God is the Giver of All Sustenance,
the Lord of All Power, the Eternally Steadfast.

[Quran, Surah adh-Dhariyat 51:55–58]

 

On the earth are signs for those with inner certainty,
just as within your own selves: will you not then see?
And in heaven is your sustenance
and all that which you are promised.
Then by the Sustainer of heaven and earth, this is the Truth—
as true as the fact that you are able to speak.

[Quran, Surah adh-Dhariyat 51:15-23]

It is interesting to note that the surah (chapter of the Quran) named for Mary, Surah Maryam, begins with Zachariah’s story,[15] with his own yearning for a child, for someone to continue to represent his lineage of righteous love of God, the lineage of Jacob. It would seem that his prayer was inspired by witnessing the being of Mary, precious child of his wife’s sister, from the years of seeing her pure devotion, the depth of her prayer, and the miraculous provision she received from her Lord.[16]

In the secrecy of his heart, he prayed: “O my Sustainer!
Feeble have become my bones, and my head glistens with grey.
But never yet, O my Lord, has my prayer unto You remained unanswered.
Bestow, then, upon me, out of Your grace, the gift of a successor
who will be my heir as well as an heir [to the dignity] of the House of Jacob;
and make him, O my Sustainer, well-pleasing to You!”
[Thereupon the angels called out unto him:[17]] “O Zachariah!
We bring you the glad tiding of [the birth of] a son whose name shall be John.
[And God says,] ‘Never have We given this name to anyone before him.’”[18]
He exclaimed: “O my Sustainer! How can I have a son when my wife has always been barren and I have become utterly infirm through old age?”
Answered [the angel]: “Thus it is; your Sustainer says, ‘This is easy for Me –
even as I have created you aforetime out of nothing.’”

[Quran, Surah Maryam 19:3–9]

As Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi relates it in his discourses:

“O Lord,” said Zachariah, “since you grant all requests, I, too, have a desire. Give me a son who will be a friend to You. Let him be familiar with You without my having to urge him, and let him concern himself with acts of worship and obedience to You.” And God did bring John into being after his father had become weak and bent with age and after his mother, too, who had not given birth in her youth, suddenly experienced menstruation and became pregnant.

You may thus realize that all that is a pretext revealing God’s power; that everything is from Him and that with Him is the Command (‘Amr). The faithful know Who behind this wall is informed of our every condition and Who sees us even though we do not see Him. For one who is faithful, this much is certain.

[Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, Discourse 45, p.182]

Similarly, in the Gospel of Luke of the Bible, the story of Zachariah and his wife and the gift of John is related just before the moment of the Annunciation to Mary is conveyed. In awareness of Mary and her devotion within the sanctuary, Zachariah called upon God with heart-felt prayer, and yet his response to the gracious news from his Lord through Gabriel is incredulity. It seems his individual intellect was still quite active, and so silence is gifted to him as the remedy, as a sign, that he might immerse in the reality of God’s Grace. Zachariah is rendered mute for three days, as it is related in the Quran; in the Bible his silence endures until Elizabeth is delivered. To share the news of their child, Zachariah writes his name on a tablet: Yahya (John)! The community is surprised that this child will not be named after his father. Just as, in older age, Anna and Joachim’s prayer for a child was answered in Mary, Zachariah’s prayer is answered in the gift of news of the arrival of a son, “Yahya,” “he shall live,” named by God. “John,” “the living one,” becomes the one who opens the way for the “Word” of Jesus, son of Mary. Miracles abound!

Just as in the early days of Moses and Aaron and Miriam when the Tabernacle (tent of meeting) provided an intimate place of meeting with God, the Temple had been established as a sacred space for the meeting of God and the human being.

The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant
to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple,
the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim.
The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark
and covered the ark and its carrying poles.
These poles were so long that their ends, extending from the ark,
could be seen from in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place…
There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb,
where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt.
The priests then withdrew from the Holy Place.
All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions.
All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun
and their sons and relatives—
stood on the east side of the altar,
dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres.
They were accompanied by one hundred and twenty priests sounding trumpets.
The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord.
Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices
in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; His love endures forever.”
Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud,
and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud,
for the glory of the Lord filled the Temple of God.

[The Bible, Chronicles 5:7–14]

Throughout rabbinic literature, the shekhinah, the transformational Presence of God, is comprehended as of feminine aspect and is referred to as intensively manifest in the Tabernacle, within the Temple in Jerusalem. The glory of Sophia, or Holy Wisdom, also of feminine aspect, emanates from this Holy Presence, as a dear rabbi friend of ours says, like the flowing of the ocean or the glittering of a diamond:

The sages of the Talmud called it Bat Kol[19], the Daughter’s Voice, and understood it to be the voice of God. . . . I understand it to be the voice of Chochma/Sophia, Mother Wisdom, who is to God what flowing is to an ocean and glittering is to a diamond.[20]

Listening to Her voice draws us nearer to Her. Listening to Her voice we hear ourselves invited to sit at Her table and enjoy the meal She has prepared for us,[21] a meal empowering us to create a world rooted in justice, compassion, and humility.[22]

Now, within the Temple, where the “Ark of the Covenant” had once been sheltered, within her sanctuary, was Mary, the “receptive vessel of God’s Wisdom,” listening deeply within her heart and receiving such nourishment!

In the Islamic tradition, Sakinah, the Arabic equivalent of shekinah, similarly signifies the Peace inspiring Presence of God. In the Quran it is spoken of as being sent by God in support for the heart, bringing illumination. This felt Presence, conveying “tranquility” is mentioned in Surah al Baqara, Surah at Tawba and Surah al Fath.[23] Through continual immersion in prayer, one might say, Mary was suffused with sakinah and guarded within herself the sirr al-rubiibiyya (the secret of divine Godhead).

And God bestows His dominion upon whom He wills:
for God is Infinite, All-Knowing.
And their prophet [Samuel] said to them:
“Behold, it shall be a sign of dominion that the Ark[24] will come to you
endowed by your Sustainer with tranquility and with all that is enduring
in the angel-borne heritage left behind by the House of Moses and the House of Aaron.[25]
In this indeed is a sign for you if you are of the faithful.”

[Quran, Surah al Baqarah 2:247–248]

The angels are carrying this heritage of Love towards us, continually. Mary was of those who bowed in recognition, immersing in the tranquility of that remembrance, a radiant heart honoring that covenant of Love.

As we are reminded in Surah ar Rad:

He guides to Himself all who turn to Him—
those who have faith
and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of God—
truly in the remembrance of God, hearts find tranquility.
(Alaa bi zhikrillahi tatma‘innul qulub)

[Quran, Surah ar-Rad 13:28]

The Quran speaks of Mary with numerous titles of honor recognizing her devotion. In Surah Maida (The Feast, 5:75), she is referred to as Siddiqah, “she who confirms the truth,” or “she who is completely and sincerely faithful.” Derived from Surah al Imran(3:43),[26] Mary is referred to as Sajidah, “she who prostrates to God in worship.” The motion of sujud, the prostration in prayer, is considered by some Muslims to be partly derived from Mary’s instinctive practice of prostrating in awe before the Presence of God, with hands, knees, and forehead all connecting with the ground. She is also known as Rakiah, “she who bows down,”[27] as Tahirah, “she who was purified,” as Mustafia, “she who was chosen (twice)”: O Mary! God has chosen you and purified you, and again he has chosen you above all women of all nations of the worlds.[28] In Surah at Tahrim (66:12), she is also called Qanitah, “wholeheartedly devout—she who is in constant surrender to the Divine, absorbed in prayer.”

And Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity.
Then We breathed therein Our Spirit,
and she confirmed the Words of her Lord and His Books;
and she was one of the wholeheartedly devout.

[Quran, Surah at Tahrim 66:12]

The songs of David, for Christians, foretell the beautiful fruitfulness of this sacred earth of Mary:

Mercy and truth are met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring out of the earth;
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Truly, the Lord shall give that which is good;
and our earth shall yield her fruit.

[King James Bible, Psalms of David 85:11-13]

Mary instinctively knew how to turn to her Lord in complete surrender to His/Her instructive Wisdom conveyed through the Light of Grace that engenders new life. She turned to the East, the place of sunrise, of illumination within the heart, and enwrapped herself in God’s numinous Presence.

And remember (zhikr) in the book, Maryam—
see how she withdrew from her family to a place in the east
and placed a veil (hijab) to seclude herself from them.

[Quran, Surah Maryam, 19:16-17]

Ruzbihan Baqli, an Iranian Islamic mystic of the 12th century, offers us a beautiful reflection on Mary’s intimacy with God, in recognition of her intrinsic spirituality as the purest of souls intimately trained by Haqq (the Real).

The true indication here [of Surah Maryam 19:16] is that the essence of Mary is the essence of the holy fitrah (primordial soul nature). And her essence was trained by “the Real”, by the light of intimacy. And in all of her respirations (every breath) she was majdhuba by the attribute of the closeness and intimacy to the Source of Divine Illumination. She became constantly in a state of spiritual vigilance (muraqaba) for the manifestation of the illumination of the World of Sovereignty (jabarut), from the point of the rising place of spiritual orientation (mashriq) in the realm of the Kingdom (malakut). And she withdrew from the world through spiritual resolve (himma) of the highest category, characterized by the Light of the Unseen. And she approached the rising-places (mashriq) of the Illumination of the Essence (dhat), and she inhaled the Attributes—fragrances from the Eternal World without beginning (‘alam al-azal). And the gift reached her—the communion with the Pre-Eternal (azaliyya). And the Illumination of the witnessing of the Eternal (mushahadat al-qidamiyya) shone upon her. And when she experienced the vision of the illumination of the Manifestation of Eternity, Its Lights flashed, and Its Secrets reached her spirit (ruh), and her spirit became impregnated with the Divine Secret, and she became the bearer of the glorious Word and the light of the spirit of the Most High. And when her state became magnified with the reflection of the beauty of the Illumination of Eternity upon her, she concealed herself out of fear [of people] and withdrew [from them] with the ‘bridegroom’ of the Reality (al Haqiqa).[29]

In the purity of her heart, beloved Maryam was prepared; one might say the Names or Attributes of God of Al Quddus (The Most Holy and Pure), Al Wadud, (The Infinitely Loving), and An Nur (The Light) were already brightly illuminating her heart. Her abode was within the abode of God; it was there she rested, there she found refuge.

Under the Mantle of the Beloved’s Veil

Stay close,
under the mantle of Your veil;
hijab
is not meant
for everyone,
but Mary drew herself
aside
into Your Sanctuary
beyond the intimations
of family,
that she might know
Your Heart.

Opened wide,
her heart was,
where no one saw,
not even
Zachariah.

Fruits of love
spring
fully formed
from the Garden
of Your Love,
even in the cold
of winter.

Come close,
and closer still
behind the veil
of this existence,
where Prophets gather
in the orchard
to hear
Your discourse
coursing through
the ears of their hearts,
as they bend
to the Ground
of Your Being
and catch Your vibration
through their feet,
their limbs,
and hair
cascading in rivulets
down into this atmosphere.

Glories, Glories,
Ever-Abiding.
Hosanna![30]
Hu, Ana[31],
in the Highest,
Subhanallah,
Ya Rabb al Alameen!
Ya Sami,
Ya Alim,
Ya Basir.[32]

 


 

[1] Rainer Maria Rilke, a Bohemian-Austrian poet of the German language (1875-1926), was greatly influenced by Islam. He indicated that the angels of his masterwork, the Duino Elegies, were inspired by the angels as rendered in the traditions of Islam. 

[2] It is mentioned in both early Christian and Muslim sources that Elizabeth was the sister of Mary’s mother, Hannah (St. Anne or Anna).

[3] Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God. [The Bible, Psalms of David 87:3]

[4] Joseph, his father in earthly lineage, was of the lineage of David. And Hannah, Mary’s mother, also, was descended from the Prophet David. Jesus is referred to as “the son of David,” several times in the Gospels.

[5] The Song of Songs which Is Solomon’s, (Illustrated and illuminated by Valenti Angelo for the members of the Heritage Club), 4:12.

[6] The Bible, Song of Songs of Solomon 2:1.

[7] The Prophecies and Revelations of Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden, Chapter 22.

[8] Carthusians are Christians practitioners inspired by St Bruno of Cologne (mystic of the 11th century) who was supremely devoted to Mary and encouraged immersion in contemplation, that one might live as unceasingly as possible in the light of the love of God, through purity of heart, remembering that “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” [The Bible, Gospel of Matthew 5:8]

[9] See “The Desert of Waiting” in The Book of Character, p. 110, excerpted from the “Little Colonel” series, The Little Colonel in Arizona by Anne Fellows Johnston, published in 2000 by Pelican Publishing Company, Inc., pp. 139 –161. This saying of Saadi included in the story reflects a saying of Imam ‘Ali: “If trials are met with contentment and patience they are a constant blessing, and if blessings are devoid of gratitude they are an ever-present trial.” Islamic mystics recommend this practice: “Keep God as your companion in every state,” so that through the Light of the Beloved’s Presence we might be guided aright and that within the Presence of the Beloved, we might rest “content,” returning, moment by moment, into that Presence, pleased (radiyah) and well-pleasing (mardiyah).

On the Day of Reckoning God will say:
“Today, their truthfulness shall benefit
all who have been true to their word.
Theirs shall be gardens through which running waters flow,
there to dwell beyond the count of time;
well-pleased is God with them,
and well-pleased are they with Him: this is the ultimate success.”

[Quran, Surah al Maida, 5:119]

[10] Al-Sulami, Haqa’iq al-tafsir, vol 1, Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, 2001, p.98 and Jafar as Sadiq, “Le Tafsir Mystique attribute a Ga‘far Sadiq,” Melanges de l’Universite Saint Joseph, 43, 1968, p.192.

[11]Al-Qushayri, Lata’if al-isharat, Cairo: Dar al Kutub al ‘Arabi 1968–71, vol.1, p.249.

[12] The Life of the Virgin: Maximus the Confessor, translated by Stephen J. Shoemaker, p.42

[13] Proto-evangelium 8:1

[14] Al Nisaburi, Ghara’ib al-Qur’an wa ragha’ib al furqan, Cairo: Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, 1962–70, vol. 3, p.186.

“I pass the night with my Lord—He gives me to eat and to drink” [Quran, Surah ash-Shu‘ara 26:79]. Hadith of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him.)

[15] Surah Maryam (surah nineteen) begins with relating the story of Zachariah’s yearning and the arrival of John (Yahya). At its core, the surah conveys the story of beloved Mary and the birth of Jesus, and then wraps back to earlier revelations with mention of Abraham and Moses, and with awareness of the angels as messengers and the continual guidance that comes to us, reminding: And God endows those who avail themselves of [His] guidance with an ever-deeper consciousness of the right way; and good deeds, the fruit whereof endures forever, are, in your Sustainer’s sight, of far greater merit [than any worldly goods], and yield far better returns. [Quran, Surah Maryam 19:76]

[16] See also Surah al Imran 3:38: In that self-same place, Zachariah prayed unto his Sustainer, saying: “O my Sustainer! Bestow upon me [too], out of Your grace, the gift of goodly offspring; for You, indeed, hear all prayer.”

[17] See also Surah al Imran 3:39: Thereupon, as he stood praying in the sanctuary, the angels called out unto him: “God sends you the glad tiding of [the birth of] John, who shall confirm the truth of a Word from God, and outstanding be among men, and utterly chaste, and a prophet from among the righteous.”

[18] As Muhammad Asad mentions in his commentary, “The name Yahya (John) signifies ‘he shall live,’ i.e., he will be spiritually alive and will be remembered forever; and the fact that God Himself had chosen this name for him was a singular distinction, equivalent to a divine promise.”

[19] Bat Kol: “An ancient rabbinic euphemism for the Voice of God. The ‘daughter’ is Chochma/Sophia, Lady Wisdom, the first manifesting of God and the Mother of all the living.”

 “Chochma/Sophia is the original happening of YHVH and the ‘the fashioner of all things’ [Wisdom of Solomon 7:22]. Targum Yonatan, a second century Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Torah, renders the first word of Genesis not as the Hebrew bereishit—‘in the beginning’—but as the Aramaic b’chuchmata—‘through Chochma’. Chochma emerges from No-thingness as a manifesting of the unformed and unnamed YHVH [Job 28:12]. As the Psalmist put it, ‘You [YHVH] made all things through Chochma’ [Psalms of David 104:24]; and as King Solomon taught, “Chochma enlivens all reality.” [Ecclesiastes 7:12]

We are encouraged to: “Keep watch for Me at every gate, wait for Me at every door.” [The Gospel of Sophia 4:30] 

~The Gospel of Sophia, the Good News of Mother Wisdom, edited and annotated by Rabbi Rami Shapiro, p.9; p.11; p.33

[20]  Ibid, p.7

[21] The Bible, Proverbs 9: 1-6

[22] The Bible, Micah 6:8

[23] See Quran: 2:248, 9:26; 9:40; 48:4; 48:18; 48:26.

[24] Lit., “that there will come to you the Ark of the Covenant (tabut) which has also been understood by Baydawi, Zamakshari, and Ibn al Athir as having the additional meaning of “heart.”  ~ Asad.

The Ark of the Covenant mentioned in the Old Testament, a highly-ornamented chest guarded by angelic presences, carried the Tablets of the Laws of Moses, and radiated immense energy, just as a righteous heart might also carry these commandments and be of powerful action in this world. 

[25] Lit., “and the remainder of that which the House of Moses and the House of Aaron left behind (baqiyyah), borne by the angels.”

As Muhamamd Asad comments in The Message of the Quran, “The expression ‘borne by the angels’ or ‘angel-borne’ is an allusion to the God-inspired nature of the spiritual heritage left by those two prophets; while the ‘remainder’ (baqiyyah) denotes that which is ‘lasting’ or ‘enduring’ in that heritage.”

 In the spiritual stages of purification of the soul, as one dies to the urges of the commanding self (nafs al ammarah), one passes through annihilation of the self (fana) and becomes enduring in the Loving Presence of God (Baqa); then one is moved in true alignment with His Will, rather than being distracted by one’s own limited personal desires and wanderings, which have dissolved and faded away.

[26] O Mary! Worship your Lord devoutly: prostrate yourself. [Quran, Surah al Imran 3:43]

[27] And bow with those who bow [Quran, Surah al ‘Imran 3:43]. Some say the ruku position of the salah ritual prayer also derives from her practice as well as that offered by the Prophet Muhammad in the way he was instructed by Archangel Gabriel on the Night Journey.

[28] Surah al Imran 3:42. 

[29] Ruzbihan al-Baqli, “Ara’is II, 7 as cited by Kristin Zahra Sands, Sufi Commentaries on the Qur’an in Classical Islam, Routledge Studies in the Quran, N.Y., 2000, p. 91–92; See also, Smith, Jane I. and Yvonne Y. Haddad, “The Virgin Mary in Islamic Tradition and Commentary”; Muslim World 79:3–4 (July/Oct. 1989), p.161–187; 183–184 trans. McCarthy of al-Baqli, Tafsir, 11, 7.

[30] Hosanna is a cry of help, seeking divine aid in the Jewish tradition, and a cry of praise and honor in the Christian tradition. It was chanted by the multitudes in greeting to Jesus when he was entering Jerusalem on what is known as Palm Sunday (the week before Easter) when he was welcomed with the waving of palms (sustainers of life, offerings of peace). Hosanna sometimes is understood as having the meaning of “Hallelujah!”

 See The Bible, Matthew 21:9 : “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

The Hebrew root words indicating a cry for help are found in Psalm 118:25—“Save us, we pray, O Lord!”

[31] Hu, Ana conveys the greetings of God (Hu, the pronoun of Divine Presence) to the Mother (Ana), held in the Highest Presence. In Islam, the “Mother of the Book” (Ummu al Kitab) is the Source from which all Divine Word flows forth: With Him is the Mother of the Book (the source of all revelation). [Quran, Surah ar Rad, Thunder,13:39]

[32] Subhanallah, Glory be to God! Ya Rabb al Alameen! Sustainer of All Worlds!
Ya Sami, O You Who are All-Hearing! Ya Alim, O You Who are All-Knowing!
Ya Basir, O You Who Are All-Seeing!

2020-05-01T10:38:23-04:00