Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Today’s Gospel reading recounts the story of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. It was a long and difficult journey from Nazareth to the hills of Judea. Some scholars estimate the distance to be almost a hundred miles, a trip that would have taken about seven days to complete. Mary, newly pregnant herself, made the trip almost immediately after learning that her cousin was with child. Why would Mary do this?
Three reasons occur to me. First, Mary was both surprised and delighted to learn that her aging cousin was with child – a gift that the family had prayed for unceasingly. She wanted to celebrate with Elizabeth and Zachariah.
Second, Mary may have wanted to spend the early months of her own miraculous pregnancy with Elizabeth, perhaps knowing instinctively that the lives of these two babes would be intertwined in God’s plan for salvation.
Finally Mary may have wanted to give the gift of “presence” to Elizabeth as the older woman waited for the birth of her child. Pregnancy is often a time of joy and fear, elation and exhaustion – and especially in the final months – of wonder and impatience. Having waited so long to become pregnant Elizabeth must have experienced all of these feelings and more. By being present Mary could help bear Elizabeth’s fears and exhaustion and share in her joy and elation.
In these final days of Advent, how good it would be if we, like Mary, could leave our busyness behind to be fully present to our families – to journey toward them and give them the gift of quiet time together contemplating the miracle of Christ’s birth.
Teresa Stanton Collett, Professor of Law, School of Law