The Visitation

Today we celebrate the feast of the Visitation and I love Luke’s account, which says something both about the relationship of Mary and Jesus and the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth.

When the angel appears to Mary, one of the things the angel tells her is that her cousin Elizabeth, who was thought to be barren, has conceived a child – the child who we know will be John the Baptist. And so Mary goes off to visit Elizabeth. When Mary enters the house and is greeted by Elizabeth, the baby inside Elizabeth leaps in her womb with joy. And Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cries out in a loud voice, “Blessed are you, Mary, among all women, and blest is the fruit of your womb.”

And then Elizabeth says something else, making her the first person to designate Mary in this way: “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me.”  The Mother of the Lord.  Mother of God.   Sydney Callahan writes, “The truth revealed in this Marian title astounds me. A woman bears God within her womb. God unites the Divine Word with human flesh. When we think of God as Mary’s newborn infant, we see the Lord of all creation in need of human love. Jesus is totally dependent upon his mother’s care. What risks God takes in loving us! And how much God expects of human kind in bringing the new creation to birth! Mary is the first to known the humility of God.”

The other striking thing to me is the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth.  The young woman has just learned that she is to bear the Christ and yet immediately runs off to be of help to her older cousin who is with child.   And the older woman herself welcomes with joy the younger cousin who has been chosen to bear the more important of the two children.  And although we are told only that Mary remained with Elizabeth for some months, we can imagine those months.  Mary helping Elizabeth with chores….Elizabeth counseling the younger woman…the two women working, sitting, talking, planning together.  Neither pride in the one nor jeolousy in the other.   Just two women each lovingly giving the other what she needs.