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A visitation - Mary and Elizabeth

Monday 31st May was the day when we remember the visit of the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth.

Luke 1 39-56

"In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be[a] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

46 And Mary[b] said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home."

This is a meeting between the young Mary and the very much older Elizabeth, both cousins and it appears they were naturally close. The person you would go to when you have good and also bad news to share, maybe a confident, a word to the wise sort of woman. There again, these are two women bound together by family, but also by God. Mary left Nazareth we are informed immediately the angel had told her about her carrying Jesus and she would help Elizabeth as she was much older and also expecting a baby - John the Baptist. The two women would have so much to talk over and to further bind their close ties. Elizabeth acknowledges Mary's very special role and that John even though in utero acknowledges Jesus also in utero. Mary proclaims what we know as the Magnificat. Both women united in faith and how God is using them.

"The church today recalls the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth , as recorded in Luke’s gospel. The celebration of the feast first occurred at a Franciscan Order General Chapter in 1263 but quickly spread throughout Europe. Since it is a celebration clearly described in the gospel, the churches of the Reformation were less inclined to proscribe it as they were other Marian feasts, particularly as it was the occasion for Mary to sing her great hymn of praise in honour of her Lord and God. Just as Luke sees John the Baptist as the last of the prophets of the old covenant, he uses John’s leaping in Elizabeth’s womb as the first time John bears witness to Christ as the promised Messiah. Thereby he links the old covenant with the new. He seems to be saying that just as the old covenant clearly points to Jesus, so does its last prophet, yet to be born."

The Visitation Malcolm Guite

Here is a meeting made of hidden joys

Of lightenings cloistered in a narrow place

From quiet hearts the sudden flame of praise

And in the womb the quickening kick of grace.

Two women on the very edge of things

Unnoticed and unknown to men of power

But in their flesh the hidden Spirit sings

And in their lives the buds of blessing flower.

And Mary stands with all we call ‘too young’,

Elizabeth with all called ‘past their prime’

They sing today for all the great unsung

Women who turned eternity to time

Favoured of heaven, outcast on the earth

Prophets who bring the best in us to birth.

How do we react to a visit from someone we are very close to, whom we share all round information which sits more comfortably with women than men? Do you need the opportunities to be together with those who are close with? Do you engineer such opportunities? Can you liberate yourself by sharing? Are we better or more complete by doing so? Do we strengthen each other as Elizabeth and Mary did?

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