Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God"
When I was younger, I was in my church's Christmas pageant every year for about 5 years running. I started out as an angel, one of the multitudes. We all wore curtains fashioned into robes and wings made out of cardboard, and sang "Glory to God in the Highest" when Sister Eleanor gave us our cue. It was a bit part, certainly, but I got to wear WINGS.
A year or two later, I was moved up to 'head angel:' Generally, this meant I was responsible for corralling all the other, younger angels. I was to keep them from falling off the altar or shoving each other in order to see the Baby Jesus doll.
The year after that, I got my first speaking part: I was still an angel (and by then our costumes had improved so that we were wearing nightgowns instead of curtains, and glitter on our cardboard wings), but now I was an angel with a line! Specifically, I was the angel that Linus talks about in A Charlie Brown Christmas: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were afraid. And the angel (that's me!) said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." That was my big line: "Fear Not! For unto you a Savior is born."
I delivered my line, then headed back to my angelic hordes just in time to take a little cherub to the bathroom. She decided to discard her wings on the way off the altar, where they were later trampled by three wisemen and about 14 shepherds.
Now, I was pretty happy with my part: I liked being in charge of all the younger kids; liked that I had a line, and that I could say it without throwing up all over everybody. But...
I really wanted to be Mary.
The part of Mary wasn't exactly spectacular ~ Mary didn't have much to say; she and Joseph mostly moved along to the beat of the narrator, trudging through the 15 feet in front of the altar & back again as they made the trek to Bethlehem. Her costume wasn't better than mine, certainly: a pillow tied under a blue curtain dress, accented by a white handkerchief tied around her head. Not a wing to be found.
But I still wanted to be her. Because, we all know it: if you're a girl, Mary's the good role.
My final year in the pageant, I'd been a reader on the altar for two or three years (this was before girls could be altar servers, btw: that's only changed in the last 10 years or so); I had been teaching CCD for a while; I filled in at the Rectory when the priests needed someone to answer the phones. In short, I was kind of a church fixture.
And I thought I had Mary's role in the bag.
Our pageant wasn't too big of a deal: we'd rehearse maybe three times in the weeks leading up to the Children's Mass on Christmas Eve. So, when the first week of December rolled around, and the first pageant rehearsal was set, I showed up at the convent, ready and willing to try on the blue curtain.
As I'm sure you've guessed, I didn't get to play Mary that year either. I had, in fact, wound up with the largest role in the whole thing: the narrator. I had to read the entire Christmas story, beginning to end, while others acted out what I recited. And it was an honor. And I was glad to end my Christmas pageant-ing with a bang: my parents & grandparents were so proud; After mass, the priest came and thanked me for doing such a wonderful job; and I did feel really great that I had made it through quite a long passage without incident (trust me, on other days? Incidents galore.). But...
I was still kind of upset that I never got to be Mary.