Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth
“Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance and we shall be saved.” I love that line from Psalm 80. God, turn your face toward us. Look at us. See us. See me. A small yet significant request, to be seen. When we are seen in love, when another’s face lights up at seeing ours, we feel love.
Mary set out and went quickly to visit Elizabeth, a normal visit turned extraordinary. By divine power and blessing, now both Mary, a young virgin, and Elizabeth, a barren elder, are pregnant. They also bear the burden of public shame. The scandal since Mary claims pregnancy through the dream of an angel. Who did she think she was? The long years of ridicule for Elizabeth who had never born a child. Rumors swirled about why she was now.
Bearing children and shame, Mary goes to Elizabeth. This holy visit. They both believe, have faith in what they can’t see or explain. Both are filled with Holy Spirit. Elizabeth exclaims in a loud voice. The baby leaps in her womb. Mary sings her song.
Imagine with me more of that moment: certainly an embrace, turning towards each other, seeing light of each other’s countenance, knowing and feeling love. They exclaim, bless and sing with joy and gratitude, with heartache and question: “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.” “My soul magnifies the Lord.”
These two relatives, friends, kindred spirits are a gift to each other, in person, being seen, acknowledged, witnessed—and I imagine—called forth. We Brothers chant or say the Magnificat every day. I wonder what it was like in that moment. Was it all composed and burst forth from Mary? Perhaps it took a while that day or even following days for the song to come. Words often come slowly for me. Some people speak quickly. Some of us take more time to find what it is we know, what is ours to say, and are helped by being called forth. I appreciate the invitation: “What do you know? What do you think? What do you know of God? What is yours to say here?” I wonder how Mary found words to sing the Magnificat. For those who speak quickly, conversation often helps confirm or distill truth and treasure. We speak well through dialogue, companionship, relationship, and community.
Elizabeth exclaims and Mary sings, perhaps all in the moment as the Spirit gives them words. Perhaps it takes time, with pregnant pauses, to be called forth by the other’s presence. They spent three months together, one near the beginning of her pregnancy and one near the end. Both bore the weight of a gift and call with shame and questions. Imagine stories they told, questions shared, the listening, tears, encouragement, and loving countenance between these two related friends who bear witness in wondrous pregnancy.
Wondrous and unclear. Mary and Elizabeth lived with ongoing uncertainty and shame by faith. They can inform and encourage us. We heard tonight in Paul’s Letter to the Colossians: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, patience … forgiveness … and love … .” Elizabeth and Mary’s tender greetings, calling forth, and months shared together must have invited compassion, kindness, patience, forgiveness, and love. They are a model for us.
Visit an Elizabeth, and welcome a Mary. Visit an Elizabeth by finding a safe, trustworthy person and share your heart. Perhaps someone who is having or has had a similar experience. Risk telling your story honestly. Share your questions, concerns, beliefs, hopes, longings, heartaches.
Welcome by being a safe, trustworthy person. Love others by listening well. Hold hearts tenderly. Be a good companion. Weep with those who weep. Call forth another’s song. Perhaps that is by being a silent witness. Perhaps it is by asking questions: “What do you know of God? What is good news? What are you grateful for? What are your words for that?” Invite others to sing. We, too, will be changed by their songs.
Like Blessed Elizabeth and Mary, kind companions lit up with love whom we remember today, welcome, call forth, and witness. Visit, be seen, and sing.
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