December 19, 2021
Our Gospel today is familiar to many. The evangelist recalls Mary’s “visitation” with her cousin Elizabeth. It is found only in the Gospel according to St. Luke but the verses of the conversation between Elizabeth and Mary are part of the Hail Mary and the encounter is one of the Joyful Mystery of the rosary. It has frequently been depicted in art. The “Visitation” holds an important place in our Catholic consciousness.
When Mary enters the house of Zechariah and greets Elizabeth, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims “the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” Artistic renderings of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth show two women huddled together. We imagine them to be whispering or laughing or weeping together. Here we have two women, one quite old and one very young, who find themselves unexpectedly expecting!
They appear to be “confiding.” “Confiding” means “to share a secret.” Literally, it means to “trust together.” Mary and Elizabeth are also “conspiring.” Not planning to do something wrong or illegal but “breathing together.” “Con” means “with.” “Spire” means “breath” or “spirit.” They are aware that God’s breath or Holy Spirit present at creation is present in the creation of the infants in their wombs. Their laughter and tears are the external signs of being touched by God’s grace.
Elizabeth, moved by the Holy Spirit, expresses three beatitudes or blessings – all three in reference to Mary. “Blessed are you among women.” “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.” “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Seeing the significance of the encounter between Elizabeth and Mary, we should ask with whom we share our experiences of God. Do we ever huddle with another person to talk about whom/what we believe? My sense is that this spiritual confiding and conspiring comes more naturally to women than to men.
We pray: “O God, Father, fill this day with opportunities to experience your presence. Provide faithful friends and family members with whom we can share the good news of the coming of your Son Jesus. In these remaining days of Advent, impart your Holy Spirit to help us to be less reticent and more expressive of our faith as we ready to celebrate the birth of Christ.”
Third Sunday of Advent