MARY, THE FAITHFUL ONE
33 AD – Sabbath Anointment – Bethany, Judea
Mary was awakened by a light rap at the door. Out the window, it was still dark. She quietly got up, careful not to wake her companions who shared her room. When she opened the door, flickering light streamed in from an oil lamp held by Joanne. Mary smiled at Joanne and another woman who came with Miriam, Jesus’ mother.
They went down to the back of the house, crossed the courtyard to the single story structure used as the kitchen. There was light showing in the windows. Mary smelled roasting meat in the air which she knew was started in the wee hours. Entering the kitchen, they found Martha and a servant working.
When Martha raised her eyes, she was surprised to see her sister. Mary went to her and kissed her in greeting. Martha looked at her. No words were exchanged. She smiled.
Mary and the others washed their hands. Then, they went to the work table to mix and knead dough. Joanne was forming rows of long rolls of dough. Mary would take two rolls and meticulously weave them into a braided loaf. As a little girl, her father had told her that the braided loaf was to remind them how God provided a double portion of manna that miraculously appeared to their ancestors during their 40 years in the wilderness. Every morning for five days each family would go out to gather the wafer bread befitting each family’s needs. But on the sixth day, they were instructed to gather a double portion. God did this so that the people would not violate the Law that during the Sabbath no Israelite would labor.
Then the loaves would go into one of the three stone ovens outside the kitchen. Mary and the women labored throughout the morning preparing the food for over thirty people. By the time the sun reached it zenith, Martha gave warning that the Sabbath was almost upon them. All the food had to be laid out on the tables and to help them out, Jesus with twelve others came to the kitchen and started to carry platters full of food into the house. This gave Mary and the others to rush up to their rooms to tidy up.
As Mary was tying up her into a bun, she espied at the far end of her vanity among a variety of bottles, a tiny alabaster cylindrical bottle with an intricate carving of a cluster of grapes hanging off a vine. She recognized it as the perfume vial that her father gave as a surprise gift just before he had to exile himself from them because of leprosy. That was ten years ago.
She reached for it. It was still sealed with beeswax. She shook it and was delighted that the aromatic contents did not dry out. She was about to break the seal, but then she hesitated for some reason. In her mind, she imagined a voice telling her, ‘not just yet’. She shrugged her shoulders and placed the bottle back on her vanity.
The Sabbath was celebrated on the seventh day starting with the evening meal of the sixth. Her father started it with the traditional uttering of the blessing. He gave a blessing of thanksgiving for the land and its bounty, and for Lord’s goodness in feeding of family, the guests and all creatures.
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