A reflection and prayer for December 21, 2017, Day 19 of Advent
Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:39-45)
Elizabeth was six months pregnant with a son — pregnant enough to feel John leap in her womb in what Pope Benedict XVI referred to as the first Eucharistic procession in history.
We commonly picture Mary rushing to the hills of Judah in order to offer assistance to her cousin, who was advanced in age. We like that image because it offers us Mary as a Model of Charity, an sound and edifying example for all Christians.
Mary probably did make herself useful while she stayed with Elizabeth and her temporarily muted husband, Zechariah, but self-interest might have motivated her trip, too. Gabriel told Mary about Elizabeth’s unexpected pregnancy. Why would he tell her this, if not to direct her toward the only person on the planet who could possibly relate to what she was experiencing, and could help her to process it?
Mary could talk to Elizabeth (and ponder with Zechariah) and know there would be no arched eyebrow of suspicion or doubt, only nods of understanding and shared wonder at the promise of mercy and salvation begun within them, and the action of God that was about to shake the world.
It’s a very human thing to seek out others who understand where we are at, particularly in those moments that bring us to our knees, or make us want to flee from our realities. What a balm Elizabeth’s greeting of understanding and recognition must have been to Mary’s own soul. The words have echoed throughout time; even now we make them our own: blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
But let’s think about the next line, too because there are no extraneous words in scripture. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
How indeed? Mary is the Mother of God, and — because Jesus pronounced it from his Cross — she is our mother as well, and she is a most accessible mother, coming not only to visionaries but to all of us. In need of someone to talk to about our realities, we realize that she — like her son — has been there, experienced that, and has the heavenly tee shirt. Just as Elizabeth was there to help Mary process what was going on in her life, Mary is there to help us.
So, we go to her; we beg her intercession, and she is there: “Mother most amiable; Mother most admirable; Mother of good counsel …”
If Elizabeth’s recognition was a sound greeting for Mary, perhaps she might be glad to hear us utter it in similar appreciation and awe: How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
What a wonder.
Come, Lord Jesus! From the pristine Ark of the New Covenant come and show us anew the mysterious way in which humanity co-operates with the Creator in bringing about his will for our lives, that we may learn to work with God, for our own good, rather than resist. Help us to say “yes” as did your Holy Mother, that you might become alive within us, for the best purposes of Almighty God. Amen.
Aleteia is bringing you reflections — Advent Light — for each day of this 2017 liturgical season. Follow the series here.