This was my second visit to St Anne's Chapel, but last year I obviously missed the significance. God had a special surprise for me today... This Chapel was built to honor the grandmother of Jesus, who history records was named Anna. A sculpture there (below) depicts the passing on of Israel's faith from Anna to her daughter, Mary, who God would choose to mother the Lord Jesus Christ. I have never once thought about the mother that raised Mary, and what a special role she had in molding her to be ready for her magnificent call. I was so moved, that I spent the better part of the hours following writing down these thoughts...
|Sculpture of Anna (the Grandmother of Jesus) as she teaches young Mary faith in the God of Israel|
Following His Steps… to St Anne’s Chapel
God created the family to be the
means through which faith would be passed from one generation to the next. An atheistic society is the most hopeless of
all, as the very fiber of civilization is doomed to unravel.
Herein lies the beauty and the
sacredness of motherhood. Children are a gift of the Lord. Blessed is the home that is filled with
them. In the biblical record there was
no greater heartbreak than to be barren and left without a child through which
to pass on your faith. Duty and joy co-mingle
as a mother passes on her love of the Lord Jesus to her children and then to
her grandchildren. Only in this way does
our faith live on.
The sculpture which depicts this
beautiful truth stands at the back of the church dedicated to Anna- the mother
of Mary. I was drawn to its beauty and
snapped a photo before my eyes filled with tears as the Monk nearby explained… The scroll in Anna’s hand contains the words
of the Shema- a prayer- a statement of faith, repeated day and night by all God
fearing Jews and taught to their children at the earliest of age.
Anna was teaching her daughter
Mary, who would be chosen as the mother of our Lord Jesus, how to turn her
heart regularly to the God of Israel.
Mary’s hands are dutifully folded in prayer and her eyes cast toward heaven as a
tender learner. I could almost hear her whisper as she gives voice to her growing faith...“Shema Israel. Hear oh Israel.
The Lord our God. The Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Amen”
This beautiful truth had obviously
past from dutiful tradition to delight by the time the angel visited Mary with
the blessed news that she alone had been chosen to mother the long awaited
Christ. And while the story of Mary told
throughout history has long been romanticized, it brought with it grave consequences. Mary would instantly become an outcast among
her people. Even her family would
question her character. She would be
left alone; with only a man she hardly knew, to carry the cross demanded of the
mother of our Savior. These were only
the beginnings of the pains she would bear… Only
33 years later, she would watch in agony as her precious, sinless son was
tortured and finally put to death on a brutal cross.
Women through the ages have marveled
at what it would be like to have the blessing of such a calling… but few would
willingly take up the cross she was called to bear. I want to have a heart like Mary’s- quick to
say as she did… “I am your humble servant.
Let it be done to me as you have said.”
In my life that looks quite
different on a practical level than it did for Mary, and yet in many ways it is
not different at all. I was probably ten
years older than Mary when I became a mother and while I loved the Lord with
all of my heart, I knew so little about what it meant to be entrusted with such
a high calling in passing on my faith to the children God gave me. It is likely that Mary, as a teen girl, could
not grasp the full meaning of her call from heaven either. It is a role we must all grow into as we are sanctified
in our faith. This is by God’s
design. In ultimately fulfilling this
role, we need only a willing heart of a servant that says “yes” regardless of
As women awaiting the arrival of
our children through birth, we dream wildly for them and often look to them as
a fulfillment of our dreams or an extension of ourselves. While this is not
necessarily wrong, I believe that this is a sad reflection of our self-centered
culture, far removed from the Biblical mandate of motherhood. In looking at this beautiful sculpture today,
I was convicted of my sin in this area.
I was ashamed too, for even carrying over a similar attitude toward the
children brought to me through the gift of adoption.
Before leaving my hotel room this
morning, I bowed in prayer and begged that God would open my eyes to see
something new. In that instant, my
prayer was answered! Through this lens I
suddenly saw my children through different eyes, but most significantly I saw the
orphan through different eyes.
An orphan, in losing parents, has
lost everything… A name; an identity; stability; a provider; a protector; a
future… But most devastating of all- they have been cut off from the faith God
ordained a family should pass down from generation to generation.
In light of this biblical mandate,
nothing could be as devastating a loss as a child left an orphan. Is it any wonder heaven cries out in defense
of the orphans among us and declares that true religion demands that we look
after them in their distress?
If procreation is the first order
of our faith, then adoption is the second!
As a Gentile, I was born into the family of faith through adoption. I need not grow up void of the hope I now
possess. There cannot possibly be a
greater love extended to the very least of the least than in the precious gift
of adoption! God, in His love, modeled this blessing most perfectly in adopting
you and me as His children in the faith.
I am embarrassed to admit that I
misunderstood this work of God when we began our adoption journey over 12 years
ago. When a checklist was set before me
as to my desires for a future daughter, I checked only “healthy” and as young
as possible. Kate was both. A healthy 12-month old little girl… straight
out of my dreams. She was perfect, and perfect is what I was
I did not know then what I know
now. God was doing an unseen work in my
heart, gently teaching me what it would mean to more willingly die to myself
and my dreams in order to accomplish a deeper work of faith, not only in my
life, but in the life of my adopted daughters as well. He was preparing me step by step for the
journey planned for our family. With
each adoption, He opened my arms wider and wider for children with greater and
greater needs. Needs I would not have
dared consider for that checklist only years earlier. The
Lord was ultimately teaching me the infinite value of every living soul,
created in His image and passing on to me His desire to bring hope to the least
of the least.
Today, as I looked upon that sculpture
standing in a most magnificent sanctuary, I saw God’s call on my life more clearly
than ever before. I saw especially the
faces of my precious daughters, Abby and Rebekah, both born with Down Syndrome
and home from China for a relatively short time.
They begin every morning with the
singing of the Shema on the way to school.
The sound of the shofar calling them to worship thrills them! Then,
together, they repeat the very words Grandmother Anna taught her daughter,
Mary, to eventually recite it in unison with her son, Jesus Christ and all those
who would follow Him. How blessed to
hear their eager voices as they join the chorus of saints throughout all time…
“Shema Israel! Hear, Oh Israel. The Lord our God. The Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Amen”
My daughters are orphans no
more. Never is this more beautifully
displayed than as they embrace the faith that has become their own only through
the blessed gift of adoption. May God be
glorified as hope fills our home in the passing down of faith from our generation to the next and to all that are to come.
|This sanctuary was not only beautiful, but an amazing place to sing together! Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound!|