The Visitation: a reflection
December 20, 2015 24 Comments
It was a long journey to the hill country. She’d heard that there were women who, when pregnant, put their feet up and were waited upon, as though their condition was some sort of illness. Her own pregnancy had been – shall we say – unusual. Joseph was a good man. Other men would just have sent her back home – covered in shame; some would have had her stoned. Joseph had been sad, but not bitter. Then the dream had brought him into the world she had entered when the angel came to talk to her; that had made things good again. He looked after her – he always had. But he understood things – the way older men just did. He knew she had to go to visit Elizabeth.
Who would have believed that old, barren Elizabeth, could have a child – and at her age? It was a sorrow known only to women – the pain of being barren. Who but a woman so afflicted could know the pain of watching sisters and cousins grow fruitful and give birth, holding that messy but lovely little baby to your breast? Mary had seen it so often, When she was betrothed, she knew this would be her fate; but what had she really known? God’s plan for her was beyond her power to appreciate – but she had been happy to be the handmaid of the Lord. She’s wanted to be that in the Temple, she’d wanted to serve God – but who could have known this was her service?
So she wanted to see Elizabeth. Her own quickening seemed to increase as she got closer. She wondered how it would be with her cousin? How she wanted to share her own joy, and how she wanted to congratulate and embrace Elizabeth.
In the quiet of the evening she reflected. It was a moment filled with God’s Spirit. Elizabeth had spoken like a prophet inspired, and that, in turn had inspired her to praise God – she could remember every word they had both said, and above all, she remembered the babe in her womb reacting. She knew that the rabbis wrote such things down, but she had no need. She knew her scriptures as well as any man. She loved to listen to the word of God. Yet she felt as though, earlier, she had been the vessel of that Word.
What had she done when he said she would be the handmaid of the Lord? Who could know? It was best to throw yourself at God’s feet and to trust, as she had when she was a little girl. Elizabeth had known, known who it was lay in her womb, and that could only have been by the workings of the same Spirit through whom she had become with child herself. What was this great mystery, how could she bear the Messiah? Surely he would come to one of those high-born women who would treat pregnancy as an illness? But her Son would treat the illness of the whole world. Her Son? How could it be? That, at least, was easy to answer – God willed it.
Now it was late evening, and she was tired. She would go upstairs and sleep under the stars – with the blessed fruit of her womb. She would wait. Her time was coming.