The icon speaks of the possibility of peace but it also instructs that true peace can only be achieved in the willingness to encounter the other.

We need to move beyond the walls of fear that we construct in order to meet the other in friendship and in welcome. It is telling that the place of encounter between Mary and Elizabeth in this icon is outside the walls (this will become more apparent as the icon develops).

I remember the words of one of the chief rabbis of Jerusalem speaking at the Assisi gathering for peace held in Washington, D.C. a couple of years ago (a gathering coordinated by the Sant’Egidio community). Speaking about the possibility of peace the rabbi remarked, “We can only give that which we ourselves already have. How can we expect to give peace if we, ourselves, do not already have peace in our hearts?”

Before we can build peace in our world, we must welcome peace into our own hearts, each and every one of us. Yes, there are walls in our world that separate but there are just as many walls within our own hearts and these also are tall and strong. The work of peace begins within.

One name we give the Messiah (whom we await in Advent) is “Prince of Peace”. He can help us remove the walls but only if we welcome him, only if we let him in.

Elizabeth’s loving embrace and welcome of Mary and her child instructs us in the way of peace.

Elizabeth was filled with holy spirit, and giving a loud cry, said,
“You are most blessed among women and
blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Lk. 1: 41-42)