Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s word would come true! (Lk. 1:45)
Words spoken by Elizabeth to Mary. Words that were all the more meaningful because they were spoken by someone who herself was living what she said.
Through the process of writing this icon of the Visitation I have gained a different appreciation of this woman Elizabeth. Before, Elizabeth was just another name in the nativity story for me – a minor character in the background. Really though no one is ever minor in Scripture and when we focus our attention on these “minor characters” we quickly learn that they have some amazing truths to share. Elizabeth has shared some of her truths and has become a woman of deep and strong faith for me, unique in her interaction with the mother of our Lord. I wonder if this might be the real driving force behind the young Mary making the journey to visit her cousin.
Certainly we can allow Mary that very human predilection of maintaining a variety of motives – conscious and unconscious. Maybe just as much as going to help her cousin in her pregnancy, Mary made the journey in order to be supported by her older cousin. I do not think that it is implausible to hold that Mary needed the wisdom, the practical faith, patience and encouragement that Elizabeth alone had to offer. Maybe in those three months Elizabeth helped to answer some of the questions remaining in Mary’s heart just as much as Mary helped Elizabeth in the remaining months of her pregnancy. The two women needed one another.
It is something to think about – the young Mary needing the help of another. Very often in our imagery Mary is the mother alone with her divine son or the mother giving aid to us wandering pilgrims. But here Mary is the one receiving comfort and encouragement from another. It is very touching and tender. It is very human. The moment is graced.