Mary Visits Elizabeth

Just as Mary travels to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, in her season of expectation, we become increasingly aware of our own movements toward the advent of Christ’s coming. While we will celebrate specifically his coming incarnate, we also celebrate, hopefully, his coming deeper into our hearts.

Mary, rightly, receives much of our attention during Advent. Nowhere is her role in our story of salvation more evident than in the Gospel reading for today. So far in his Gospel, Luke has shared the Annunciations to both Mary and Elizabeth. We’ve witnessed the “yes” of Mary to the Angel Gabriel’s declaration that she, even in her youth and inexperience, will bear her Savior, the Lord whom she reveres. Now Mary puts that vocal acceptance into action.

God knows of Mary’s faith, and God knows equally well that she is going to be confused, frightened, and likely face society’s condemnation as her condition progresses. The angel, on God’s behalf, tells Mary to go to her cousin Elizabeth. He tells her that she, too, has been given a child to bear in unlikely circumstances. Mary is reassured that nothing, not even her own overwhelming role, is impossible for God.

And so Mary “traveled to the hill country in haste” to find comfort and support with her cousin Elizabeth. This particular passage is prophetic and also reveals the prophetic nature of what’s happened to and within Elizabeth. In addition, it provides a foundational knowledge of the relationship that begins in that moment of greeting between the children in their wombs.

Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, recognizes the blessedness of both Mary and her child. She declares, before Christ is even born to the world, that Mary bears the Lord and acknowledges Mary’s flawless belief in God’s plan for her and for the whole world.

Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s enthusiastic greeting and blessing follows next in Luke’s Gospel. Mary is also inspired by the Spirit and so begins her psalm of praise, known to us as the Magnificat. The beginning of Mary’s song of praise is completely centered on “God my Savior”, the “Mighty One”. She glorifies God’s name and contrasts this with her own humbleness.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.(1:46-49)

Mary continues with her magnificat, recounting God’s blessings to those who trust in the Lord.

“His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”     (1:50-55)

Mary’s faith, even in the midst of life-altering change and her unhesitant embrace of God’s plan for her, is an example to us all, surely, of what we should strive for daily in our own relationship with God. And while it’s true that this passage contains important revelations regarding the nature of Mary’s unborn child and her own part in the salvation story, what I find most heartening is the relationship between Elizabeth and Mary.

Advent opens my heart to be able to see two things. First, that my desire for closeness to God through Jesus Christ burns brighter and brighter within me as I allow myself to sink deeper and deeper into the mystery of His ministry and Passion. Secondly, that I fall very short of the kind of unwavering trust of Mary. While Mary is a role model for each of us in our faith, none of us can hope to achieve that kind of belief on our own.

I am comforted and reassured by this passage because I am made to see that even Mary—even the most blessed among women, the one quick to say “yes” to our God, the Immaculate One, the mother of Jesus—even Mary needed to rely on her God and her friend. Not just any friend, either, but a woman who could relate in some way to her own confusion and fear.

It’s this message from Luke that compels me to always be seeking to populate my life with people who share both my faith and my struggles. Living out a life following the footsteps of Jesus Christ as closely as possible is difficult. It can be scary, lonely, confusing, and uncertain. It is filled with blessings, joy, love, and hope. How wonderful is our God to have given Mary and Elizabeth one another. What a gift he gave to their children that they would grow in the midst of that friendship. My prayer this week is that you, too, have sought out people who will help you grow in faith and love of Christ and that you will endeavor to be that for others.

Blessings on you this Advent season!



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