Christmas Novena • Second Station
Mary Visits Elizabeth
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviter disponensque omnia:
Veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High,
that reachest from one end to another,
and orderest all things mightily and sweetly:
Come to teach us the way of prudence.
Mariotto Albertinelli, The Visitiation, 1503, Uffizi Gallery, Florence
And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth.
And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.
And she cried out with a loud voice and said: “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.”
“The Visitation” by Ron Rolheiser, OMI
We are all familiar with the biblical story of the Visitation. It happens at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel. Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth, both pregnant, meet. One is carrying Jesus and the other is carrying John the Baptist. The Gospels want us to recognize that both these pregnancies are biologically impossible; one is a virginal conception and the other is a conception that occurs far beyond someone’s childbearing years. So there is clearly something of the divine in each. In simple language, each woman is carrying a special gift from heaven and each is carrying a part of the divine promise that will one day establish God’s peace on this earth.
But neither Mary nor Elizabeth, much less anyone around them, consciously recognizes the divine connection between the two children they are carrying. The Gospels present them to us as “cousins”, both the children and their mothers; but the Gospels want us to think deeper than biology. They are cousins in the same way that Christ, and those things that are also of the divine, are cousins. This, among other things, is what is contained in the concept of the Visitation.
Mary and Elizabeth meet, both are pregnant with the divine. Each is carrying a child from heaven, one is carrying Christ and the other is carrying a unique prophet, the “cousin” of the Christ. And a curious thing happens when they meet. Christ’s cousin, inside his mother, without explicit consciousness, leaps for joy in the presence of Christ and that reaction releases the Magnificat inside of the one carrying Christ.
There’s a lot in that image: Christ’s cousin unconsciously leaps for joy in the presence of Christ and that reaction draws the Magnificat out of the one who is carrying the Christ. Christian de Cherge, the Trappist Abbott who was martyred in Algeria in 1996, suggests that, among other things, this image is the key to how we, as Christians, are meant to meet other religions in the world. He sees the image as illustrating this paradigm:
Christianity is carrying Christ and other religions are also carrying something divine, a divine “cousin”, one who points to Christ. But all of this is unconscious; we do not really grasp the bond, the connection, between what we are carrying and what the other is carrying. But we will recognize their kinship, however unconsciously, when we stand before another who does not share our Christian faith but is sincere and true to his or her own faith. In that encounter we will sense the connection: What we are carrying will make something leap for joy inside the other and that reaction will help draw the Magnificat out of us and, like Mary, we will want to stay with that other for mutual support.
Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI is a world-renowned speaker and author, as well as being a professor and former president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio.
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During this reflective season of Advent we think about Our Savior who came to help the poor and most abandoned. Would you please help the Missionary Oblates care for them?