I treasure this reading commonly known as “The Visitation” for many reasons. For one thing, the story prominently features two women – Mary and Elizabeth. What a refreshing change from the Patriarchal bias found all over the Bible that tends to push the women into the margins of the story. (A tendency that continues on into the Church…. but that’s a tale for another day.)
Notice the intimate experience of God and relationship in the story. Elizabeth is so “filled with the Holy Spirit” she can’t help but cry out in joy. Mary, too, is overwhelmed with God’s presence, moving her to profess one of the great prayers of praise in the Catholic tradition (The Magnificat) which begins with the words: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”
The connection between the two women, described by Luke as “cousins”, is so deep that Elizabeth instinctly knows the miracle that has happened to Mary (“the baby leapt in my womb”) before Mary does or says anything. The story concludes by simply stating that Mary “remained with Elizabeth for three months” – presumably, in a spirit of deep and abiding friendship.
No coincidences there. An intimate relationship with God inevitably leads us to intimate relationships with others. And intimate relationships with others inevitably leads us into an intimate relationship with God. Such a circle of abiding Love can’t help but produce within us into a deep concern for and commitment to the poor and lowly – a major theme of the entire Magnificat!
James Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
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