Thursday, December 4, 2008

Learning from an Older Woman (Luke 1:39-45)

I have learnt a lot from Elizabeth. Old Elizabeth, barren for so many years, is now with child. When her younger relative arrives she welcomes her; not with begrudging bitterness at stolen limelight, but with joyful humility. I can’t say what Mary learnt from Elizabeth, but I would like to share what I have learnt from this lovely older woman.

Elizabeth teaches me about Joy. The angel had said that her baby would be a joy and delight to them (1:14). But the joy Elizabeth speaks of is more than the joy the birth of a baby usually brings to its parents. John leaps in the womb upon hearing Mary’s greeting, and Elizabeth, filled with the spirit, tells us that he leapt for joy. He leaps for joy because of the one Mary bears. Here, even before birth, John is paving the way for the Lord; preparing our hearts for the Christ, whose coming is a joyous occasion.

Elizabeth teaches me about Humility. Mary’s coming to her is special because it is the Lord’s coming (1:43) and she wonders, ‘Why am I so favoured?’ She wonders because she knows that she does not deserve such a visit, recognising her own sinful, humble state. Although ‘upright in the sight of God, observing all the commandments and regulations blamelessly’ (1:6), she is humbly aware that she is un-deserving. As am I, as are you, because we are all sinners, and it is this humble recognition that will fill us with joy at his coming.

Elizabeth teaches me about Blessing. Twice Elizabeth blesses Mary. Imagine being chosen to be the mother of God! Blessed indeed! And so, when the woman later calls out…
‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you!’ (11:27)
…I am surprised that Jesus replies,
‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’ (11:28)
But I should not be so, for Elizabeth had explained,
‘Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said will be accomplished.’ (1:45)
Mary heard the word of God and obeyed for she believed he would do what he promised; and so she was blessed. Hearing, believing and obeying are all part of the response of true faith.

Let’s also believe that he will do what he has said, and so be blessed.


Mary and Elizabeth, by Susan.

The Visitation of St. Elizabeth to The Virgin Mary' by Mariotto Albertinelli from

Mary and Elizabeth, by Carl Bloch, from Carl Bloch Art.

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