I recently came across this wonderful article, written by a religious sister reflecting on whether her actions follow in the footsteps of Mary’s actions. That is, do our actions point others to Jesus?
It’s a great reflection and worthy of your time.
But when I read the title, I thought of something a bit different.
Hands tell a story. They all start out more or less the same: chubby, soft, unused and untainted. They’re a blank slate except for the etchings of our DNA upon them: color, shape, and size all predetermined. But as time goes on, they become stronger, bigger, more agile, dirty from the outdoors or from paint or from food, scarred from accidents, manicured or unkempt, until they become ultimately wrinkled and brittle. Each of these experiences shapes our hands differently and uniquely — as uniquely as the lives we’ve lived.
The question, “Do you have hands of Mary?” brought all this to mind, but gave it a distinct direction.
What would Mary’s hands have looked like?
At the time of Christ’s birth, our Mother’s hands were certainly young, somewhat tender, shaking from labor and perhaps a bit clumsy the first time they held their God.
But they quickly became hands of a mother: tired from difficult work, constant child care, probably dirty from playing with Jesus outside, burnt from cooking and strong from work at the loom. She probably wasn’t able to pay much attention to the health of her cuticles or fret over broken nails.
Mary undoubtedly understood scraped knuckles and other imperfections as a natural part of motherhood, of the reality of chasing a toddler or preparing food or whatever else would cause nicks and bumps throughout the day. Such marks weren’t signs of brokenness but signs of selflessness.
Imagine the state of Mary’s hands when Gabriel left, perhaps trembling or nervously picking at a nail as she took in the incredible news she’d just received, the decision she’d just made. Imagine the same hands as she ran them over her baby bump for the first time, wondering how her little boy would fulfill the angelic predictions. And then those same hands, holding fast on a donkey’s hair or a walking stick as she trekked more than 100 miles to return to Nazareth after spending three months caring for her expectant cousin Elizabeth in Hebron, even though she was already well into the second trimester herself.
Those hands would go on to raise the Son of God. They would comfort her husband and encourage her boy. They would test the quality of Jesus’s workmanship and wave goodbye as he left to begin his ministry. They would wipe tears when he was mocked, comfort him as he was executed and they would hold his bloody, broken body when it was finally brought down from the cross. Her hands would ignore the splinters, the blood, and the chill of the skin of her dead son. They would instead continue to give — always giving — as she wiped his hair away from his ashen face, gently cleaned his wounds and checked his burial wrappings for the last time.
Mary’s strong hands weren’t just a product of her time. They were a product of her heart.
Mary’s hands spoke of selflessness, of sacrifice, and of service. Mary’s hands always directed everything she did toward her God and her Son.
Are our hands Marian? Do we take on tasks graciously, offer them to God, regardless of the costs? Do the state of our hands—tired, dirty, dry, calloused—tell of our generosity and dedication to holiness and love? Do they tell of the servant’s heart within us, tough from work, yet soft with mercy and compassion? Are they quick to help, slow to chastise, and folded often in prayer? Does a tender touch from us direct the hearts of others to their Greatest Love?
Do we have hands of Mary?
— Forest Hempen
Marketing and Communications Associate