Fourth Sunday of Advent
Mary set out 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,
“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.”
For the second time this Advent, we have a gospel reading which concerns the Visitation of Elizabeth by Mary. The first few chapters of Luke are some of my absolute favorite chapters in the New Testament because, unlike later chapters which focus on Jesus’s teachings, these chapters focus on telling a story.
This particular passage really says a lot about who Mary was as an individual. Luke describes Mary as traveling, “in haste to a town of Judah,” so that she might visit her cousin Elizabeth. It is important to note here that Mary has just received her greeting from the angel Gabriel. She knows that Elizabeth is pregnant–and she also knows that she herself is as well. Gabriel’s announcement must have been earth-shattering to Mary. She was young, roughly 13, a virgin, and betrothed. Her pregnancy meant great danger to herself–she almost certainly would have been killed if others in her town had discovered that she was with child out of wedlock. And yet, despite the fear and anxiety Mary felt, she did not recede into herself. She reached out. She reached outside herself and journeyed to see her cousin, to visit her and make sure she was okay.
When I read this story, I imagine Mary traveling to a nearby village to make her visit. The reality is, Elizabeth’s town was somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred miles away from Mary’s home in Nazareth. That distance would have been covered either on foot, or in a caravan. Either way, it was not a short journey.
When I think about Mary’s faith in God, and her willingness to love those around her, no matter the cost to herself, I am inspired. Mary was human, just like us. She was born without sin, but that does not mean that she was incapable of it. Mary had free will, just as we do. But while we fumble at even the simplest of decisions, Mary consistently chose God.
We can tell from the stories about her that Mary was quiet, humble, gentle, selfless, and meek. She was also, however, a strong, independent, courageous, and wise young woman. This final week of Advent, let us enter into the mystery of the Nativity with Mary. Let us ponder the miracle of Jesus with Mary. Let us sit by her side as she holds her newborn son. As we draw closer to Mary, we will likewise be drawn closer to her son. As we become more like her, we will become more like the one she bore.
What is your relationship like with Mary? Who is Mary to you? What do you think about when you think of her?