"Mary and Elizabeth: Transcending Women" – Luke 1:39-45
In those days, Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
For perspective of course, we need to know, or be reminded some, of what happened to Mary before she makes her way to visit her Aunt Elizabeth, with the news of her pregnancy, which is what she’s up to in today’s Gospel. There was an angel, remember, who appeared with all sorts of news for the young girl: that she had found favor with God; that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and that she would conceive and bear a son; that the child would be holy, that he would be called “Son of God”; that she would name him Jesus, because he was going to save his people from their sins. Oh, and that she should not be afraid about any of this, even though she was a virgin.
But it’s no wonder she got the heck out of town and headed for the hills to make her way to Zechariah’s place to find Elizabeth’s. And I like to wonder about all the reasons Mary left, like she did, and went to see her aunt and uncle. Maybe she went to Elizabeth because the angel told her aunt she was pregnant, too. Maybe she went to Elizabeth and Zechariah, because they were the cool aunt and uncle, she knew would help her out of this mess, or at least might help her explain things to her parents. Maybe she went to Elizabeth because Zechariah was a priest – a faithful man of God – who could confirm or deny whatever the heck was going on with those angels. Maybe she went, just because they lived in the hills, outside of town, and she could hide out there for a time, until she figured out what to do next.
Maybe…Maybe…Maybe. We can’t know exactly what drove Mary to Elizabeth out in the hill country of Judea. There may be a bit of truth to all of the above, for all I know. But I always feel under-qualified and ill-equipped to pretend I can make guesses about what a young girl, unmarried and pregnant, in first-century Palestine, might have been thinking or feeling or up to, in Mary’s shoes.
But I was reminded about something I’d seen several years ago on YouTube – a reading from Kelly Corrigan. I’ve shared a reading of hers with you once before. If you haven’t heard of her, Kelly Corrigan precedes Glennon Doyle Melton, of Momastery fame, in the literary genre of motherhood memoirs, but they seem to be cut from the same cloth. Anyway, something she wrote made me think of today’s Gospel, and gave me another way to imagine what Mary might have been up to when she ran off to find Elizabeth:
Now, because I pay attention to the way my wife is friends with her friends, it seems to me women are hard-wired for – or at least better at – this sort of thing than most men, and that we could all learn a thing or two from their example.
See, I wonder if Mary was looking for that kind of “circling,” that kind of transcendence, when she ran off to see Elizabeth. Maybe she needed a friend, a shoulder, a confidant. Maybe she needed a confessor, a partner in crime, someone to limp with, or someone to carry her through whatever was to come. Maybe she needed advice or comfort or encouragement. Maybe she was looking for a second opinion, or a way to help the time pass more quickly, or a belly laugh, or a howling cry of understanding and compassion.
And it seems to me that’s what she found in her Aunt Elizabeth. It seems some sort of transcendence – some stirring of the Holy Spirit – did transpire between Mary and her aunt.
And I wonder if that might not be our call and quest in these last days before our celebration of Christmas. I wonder if we’re called to be as bold and faithful and brave as Mary and Elizabeth – and as Kelly Corrigan and her friends – to offer that kind of holy, circling, transcendence to one another.
Maybe we need something from someone, ourselves. Maybe we have something to give to somebody else. Maybe there’s a shoulder to be offered, a tear to be shed, a confession to make, forgiveness to extend. Maybe the coming of this savior – for us and through us – will send us running, not with fear or despair, but running with hope and expectation, boldness and courage to grow relationships that matter, for a change; to grow deeper connections with others – that change us and that change the world in return. And maybe, all of this will happen, this time around, in ways that the coming of a child can inspire and that only the grace of God will allow.