The calling of Samuel is the middle of the story; it is incomplete without the beginning or the end.
The boy Samuel answering the voice of God has grown from the infant Samuel born to the God-fearing, hymn-singing woman Hannah. The same boy who will grow into the prophet of Israel who anoints kings, whose legacy lives on even after his death.
This one important man may never have been born at all were it not for the faithful courage of his mother.
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Hannah, beloved wife who wants to be a loving mother, but is unable to bear children. Hannah who weeps and starves herself for the grief of her unmet desire and for the painful taunts of her husband’s second wife. Hannah who prays so fervently to God that the priest shames her for what he assumes is drunkenness.
She cannot even bring the words to her lips to beseech her God, so she prays in silence.
I can see her, wearied by the burden of her sorrow, bent over her clasped hands as she rocks back and forth on the temple floor. She has lost herself in her cries to God, so much that she breathes prayer with her whole body.
Year after year, Hannah comes here, to this temple, to ask for a son who can carry her name, who can provide for her and protect her as she ages.
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And God sees her. And God remembers her. And out of her faithful heart and her praying body, that son is born, already named He who is from God, because Hannah knows the miracle of him even before he leaves her womb.
She takes her baby, fresh into this world, back to the familiar temple, back to that same priest who marveled at her body-prayer, and she gives her child back to the God who gave him first to her.
Like the young woman Mary would so many centuries later, Hannah sings thanksgiving to her mighty God, in words so beautiful and eloquent that they echo for generations.
There is no one holy like the Lord, there is no one besides you;
There is no rock like our God.
I can only imagine that her body prays this prayer too, moving now in twirling dance, arms thrown out to take in the goodness of this moment, feet gliding over the same temple floor that held her tears for all those years before.
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Each year after that, her pilgrimage to the temple bears new purpose: to see her miracle son, grown into a boy, who lives in the sacred space where he was truly conceived. She bears more children, now that she has stepped into the role she always dreamed: mother.
And I see her, one more time, praying with her body – as her middle swells large with new life, as she bends to carry them, to rock them. I see her as she moves about her home, caring and cleaning, moving with the grace of a woman who has born sorrow and children both. I imagine her humming that hymn of thanksgiving sung that joyful day in the temple, worshipping with every moment of her life.
Hannah, whose very life is faithfulness and praise.
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