The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 123.

Face of Mary, from St Anne, the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child, 
1500-13, Detail 
By: Leonardo da Vinci

In the days when King Assuerus ruled over Persia, the Jews who had been carried into captivity in the days of Nebuchadnezzar were scattered throughout his dominions—living in fear and trembling for their lives. In the capital there dwelt a Jew named Mardochai, together with his beautiful niece Esther, an orphan whom he had brought up from her childhood as his own daughter. Now, it came to pass that Esther found favour in the eyes of Assuerus and was chosen by him to be his Queen. Mardochai, however, thought it prudent to charge her to keep silence as to her relationship with himself, and also as to the fact that she was a Jewess by birth and religion. Meanwhile a certain Haman was advanced by the king over all the princes, so that " all the king's servants that were at the doors of the palace bent their knees and worshipped him." (Esther iii. 1-2. 2) Mardochai, however, steadily refused to render this homage. When on this account he was denounced to the king, he prayed to the Lord, saying: " O Lord, Lord, Thou knowest all things, and Thou knowest that it was not out of pride and contempt, or any desire of glory, that I refused to worship the proud Haman (for I would willingly and readily, for the salvation of Israel, have kissed even the steps of his feet), but I feared lest I should transfer the honour of my God to a man, and lest I should adore anyone except my God." (Id. xiii. 9-14.)

For terrible trouble had already come to Mardochai and his people partly by reason of this refusal, and partly because he had denounced two friends of Haman whom he knew to have conspired to murder the king. Full of rage and wounded pride, Haman obtained from Assuerus a decree sent through "all the hundred and twenty-seven Provinces that were subject to his empire from India to Ethiopia," ordering that:

"All the Jews should be destroyed, both young and old, little children and women in one day—the thirteenth of the twelfth month—and a spoil be made of their goods, and that none should pity them. And the couriers that were sent hastened to fulfil the king's commandment. And immediately the decree was hung up in Susan, the King and Haman feasting together, and all the Jews that were hi the city weeping."

Then Mardochai knew that his whole hope, after God, must be placed in Esther the Queen. He therefore sent her "a copy of the edict that was hanging up in Susan, that she might go to the king and entreat him for her people."

But Esther replied that there was a law which laid down that:

" Whosoever should go into the king's inner court, without being sent for be immediately put to death without any delay, unless the king shall hold out the golden sceptre to him, in token of clemency that so he may live. How then can I go into the king, who for these thirty days have not been called unto him ? And when Mardochai had heard this, he sent word to Esther again, saying: " Think not that thou mayest save thy life only, because thou art in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou wilt now hold thy peace, the Jews shall be delivered up on some other occasion, and thou and thy father's house shall perish. And who knoweth but that thou art not therefore come to the kingdom, that thou mightest be ready in such a time as this ?"

Esther, on receiving this appeal, was far indeed from " holding her peace, thinking only of her own safety." After three days' prayer and fasting, she, unsummoned, went boldly to the king, who was for a moment full of wrath, but:

"God changed the king's spirit into mildness, and he caressed her with these words: Why Esther, art thou afraid ? Thou shalt not die, for this law is not made for thee, but for all others. Come near then and touch the sceptre. . . . What wilt thou have done, although thou shalt ask the half of my kingdom, thou shalt have it.' "

Then Queen Esther acknowledged to her lord that Mardochai was her uncle, disclosed the wicked plot of Haman and answered the king : " If I have found favour in thy sight O King, and if it please thee, give me the life for which I ask, and my people for whom I entreat thee. For we are given up, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain and to perish."

Assuerus, moved by the prayer of Esther, caused investigations to be made, with the result that Haman was hanged on the gibbet he had prepared for Mardochai, the royal edict against the Jews was reversed as publicly as it was made, and their enemies were punished, whilst—

"To the Jews a new light seemed to rise, joy, honour, dancing. And in all peoples, cities and provinces, whithersoever the king's commandments came, there was wonderful rejoicing—feasts and banquets and keeping holy day; inasmuch that many of other nations and religions joined them selves to their worship and ceremonies."

The symbolism of all this to a Catholic is unmistakable, and should never be lost sight of. As Esther pleaded for her people who were under a curse, so too does Mary plead for her sinful children with Him by whom all kings reign. As the sceptre was given to Esther, so has it been given to Mary. As it was said to Esther : " This law was not for thee, but for all others," so is Mary alone exempt from that law of sin which hinders fearless access to God; for Mary Queen of Heaven, immaculate in her conception, sinless in her life, the mother and refuge of God's people, in all her ways is ever well-pleasing to the Most High.

Wherever we search in the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, unless our eyes are holden, we shall find our Lady. We shall find her foreshown in the nomadic life of Abraham when Sarah rejoiced at the birth of her son—we shall find her as we watch Rebecca with her pitcher at the well, Rachel loved so dearly by Jacob the herdsman, Miriam her name sake—saving her people from the hosts of Pharaoh— Ruth in the cornfields of Boaz, Abigail so gently turning aside the wrath of David, or Bethsabee seated by Solomon the Wise on the throne belonging to the Mother of the King. Like Debbora of old, Mary is the Mother of Israel. Even as Jael smote Sisera and Judith Holofernes, so has Mary ever fought against the enemies of God's people. Like Esther who found such favour with her spouse, Mary has been favoured above all others by her Lord, that she may intercede for her children and prevail. In the time of our necessity we may venture to remind her—as Mardochai once reminded Esther to such good purpose—that for this reason amongst others, " has she come to her kingdom, that she might be ready in such a time as this."

We find the Holy Mother of God foreshadowed in the Eternal Decrees, together with her Lord, even at the beginnings of the world—for to the Mother of God the Church applies the words of the seer:

"Then the Creator of all things commanded and spoke to me, and He that created me rested in my tabernacle. From the beginning, and before the world, was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in His holy dwelling-place I have ministered before Him. And so was I established in Mount Sion, on the Holy City likewise I rested, and my power was in Jerusalem. And I took root in an honourable people, and in the portion of my God which is His inheritance, and my abode is in the full assembly of the Saints. I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus, and as a cypress tree on Mount Sion. I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades, and as a rose-plant in Jericho. As a fair olive-tree in the plains, and as a plane-tree by the water in the streets was I exalted. ... I am the mother of love and of fear and of knowledge and of holy hope. In me is all the grace of the Way and of the Truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me and be filled with my fruits. For my spirit is sweet above honey and mine inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations."

Yes, we find the coming of Mary our mother, who is also the Virgin Mother of our Lord, anticipated and proclaimed in many a haunting phrase of the sacred writings of the people of God. And her children, wherever they see her gracious figure, shall arise and call her Blessed, crying to her, as Jews of old once cried to Judith—but with love and gratitude and confidence and reverence increased beyond the power of words to say—in proportion as the Reality is greater than the Figure, and the Gospel is richer in blessings than was the Law:

"Thou art the Glory of Jerusalem; thou art the joy of Israel; thou art the glory of all our people."