I happen to have a cousin named Elizabeth with whom I am very close (we often introduce the other as “my sister” just to make things easier), so I’ve always empathized with Mary’s “Visitation” to her cousin, Elizabeth, just after the overwhelming experience of the Annunciation, where the Angel Gabriel tells her she is to bear a child (!) who will be the Messiah (!!!) and she says Yes (!!!!!!!).
I’d go running to my Elizabeth too, is what I’m saying. Times like these, you need a Sister.
This is a very visceral story for me, this tale from the Gospel of Luke. I can remember calling my Elizabeth to tell her of my own surprise pregnancy back in the day – that overwhelming urge to tell this unbelievable miracle.
And the detail of Elizabeth’s own baby (a yet unborn John the Baptist) “leaping in her womb for joy” when Mary enters, in recognition of the baby (a yet unborn Jesus) entering the room – I know this one too. That surprise baby of mine was snoozing in my own womb when I was about 7 months along, and my husband knocked a heavy metal mag-lite flashlight over into our bathroom sink – the loud noise startled the baby and he LEAPED in reaction inside me. It was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever felt – the extreme startle within.
And lastly, Mary’s response, her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55):
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
I have sung these words so many times, and at different points in my life, they seem to be my words. When we were food insecure and “he hath filled the hungry with good things”, when I didn’t understand why or how I, lowly I, was called to pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and yet the money showed up from here there and everywhere to make the trip possible, when I blink and suddenly my kids, my life, my home seem too wonderful for words and “my soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoices”.
I have even broke out into song when I have no other response – when I opened the trunk and saw all the groceries I could afford to bring home from the newly opened Aldi’s, and the old Girl Scout grace “Johnny Appleseed” burst forth from my lips. The first night after my baby slept through the night, and I sang “Rise and Shine and Give God Your Glory” spontaneously as I got dressed and showered. When I was driving, running late, and the baby was crying and there was a blocked road and I wasn’t sure how to get where I was going, and I sang “I can do anything through God who strengthens me” from the past summer’s VBS.
I have so many senses awakened, so much kinesthetic awareness of this Feast Day – but none of them with food!
So first, I plan to be really aware of the sensations of Feasting. To eat and drink slowly and mindfully.
Second, I plan to make something to remind me of my Elizabeth – mint Juleps (she’s from my Louisville family) or a pie (girl makes good pies).
Lastly, I’m going to make cut-out musical note cookies – in honor of the Magnificat and the music of this tradition, of my church, that has given me these words, not just in my mind, but my bones. My soul. These words are of me now.