I’m not certain what Italian movie director Franco Zeffirelli was thinking when, in Jesus of Nazareth, he had Mary weaving on a loom in the moments just prior to her betrothal ceremony. No doubt he wanted to separate Mary from every other girl of her time, indeed all time, who would anxiously be checking every last detail of her appearance before presenting herself to her beloved, not to mention the entire village gathered together for the celebration. All eyes would be upon her, the center of attention.
But Zeffirelli shows Mary calmly working on her loom. Industriously. Without any noticeable signs of agitation or anxiety. Perhaps the historical Mary may have been just this phlegmatic by nature. A teenage girl extraordinaire. She was chosen, “full of grace,” “blessed among women,” to carry the incarnate Son of God in her womb for the length of her pregnancy. She was the mother of Christ Jesus but as Jesus said twice during his ministry, she ought to be honored as one who obeyed the will of God (Luke 11:27-28 & Mark 3:32-35).
And in this Mary serves as an example of true humility. She describes herself as the “handmaid of the Lord,” a mere servant. Not once does she take for herself a position of honor. Instead she ascribes all praise to God alone:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)
Which leads us back to the scene at the loom: why is she calmly at the loom at the moments prior to her betrothal? I would suggest that Zeffirelli is “weaving” together a portrait of someone whose encounter with God has just begun. True, the Spirit of God had overshadowed her at the moment of Christ’s incarnation in her womb. But the gospels portray a woman who struggles through the events of Jesus’ life, still trying to comprehend, to come to terms with who He was. The moment of the angel’s announcement was a beginning. And on the heels of that came her engagement ceremony.
If there was ever a moment to work on a loom this was it. Her calm demeanor betrays not placidity but sensitivity to the work of God in the events of her life and that of her people and that of the world. The threads of history were firmly under His mighty and sovereign control.
Expectant but untroubled, waiting in faith for the Author of that faith, God Himself, to continue to weave together all the threads of our life to glorify Him, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8: 28 NASB).
For now, whatever may be around the corner, let us be at our loom, humbly submitting, earnestly working, and calmly trusting. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10 NASB).