Wednesday, December 21, 2016

ladies room

During these days, says Luke, Mary set out and to visit her cousin Elizabeth [insert Visitation story here]. It is so easy to zone out during these infancy narrative stories; accepting the story as expected, allowing it to become routine, and never surprising.
But wait, I thought, what is this story a picture of?

Did Mary go to Elizabeth for comfort? Did Mary arrive at Elizabeth's doorstep frightened, in need of comfort, disturbed, questioning her sanity, or feeling all alone? Was she scared of how she would tell her parents, dreading the thought of sharing this story with Joseph?

I thought of Mary, scared, uncertain of what the vision she had received was. The Protevangelium of James says that Mary "forgot" the message of the angel, and was troubled when she came to realize that she was with child. Perhaps it was in this scared, uncertain state Mary went "in haste" to visit Elizabeth.

Perhaps, timidly, she approached Elizabeth's door and called out for her cousin. Reached for the sure support and comfort of an older, wiser relative. Elizabeth's greeting to Mary is filled with the Holy Spirit, and knows that Mary needs a word of comfort. Her words, the Evangelist claims, are prophetic, they come from God, they are inspired. They are exactly the words that Mary needs to hear:

Blessed are you.
Imagine feeling your saddest, your most frightened, your most unsure, and being greeted with the beautiful, comforting greeting: blessed are you. Do not fear, Mary, whatever you are, whatever has happened to you, it is a blessing, and you are truly blessed. And your arrival here has blessed me as well. Elizabeth responds to Mary's fears with blessing. Thus freeing Mary from her own uncertainty to acclaim her joyful prayer of liberation and thanksgiving, the Magnificat.

This Bechdel-test-approved pericope gives us a beautiful paradigm for companionship and accompaniment. In her vulnerability, Mary seeks support, Elizabeth receives her vulnerability and blesses it with inspired words. Through Elizabeth's blessing, Mary's own blessing ascends.

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