December 23, 2012
Senior Admissions Counselor & Adjunct Instructor
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
I often pray the rosary on my way to work, and The Visitation is one of my favorite mysteries on which to meditate. In an age in which we complain about having to put a stamp on an envelope, or when facebooking someone counts as “staying in touch,” it is hard to imagine that a pregnant woman would sacrifice so much in not hesitating to make an arduous journey by foot simply to pay a relative a visit.
The distance from Nazareth to Judea is about ninety miles as the crow flies. Traveling by foot, and while pregnant, Mary would have taken over a week to complete it. The details remain elusive, and so, the questions echo through generations: Where did she sleep? Did she travel alone, or with Joseph? Was she concerned for her safety?
When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I felt very protective of her. I made sure she always had her cell phone, and I didn’t want her traveling by herself too far from home, or doing anything that might be even remotely dangerous. After all, she was carrying precious cargo!
While human life is indeed precious, the cycle of birth is surprisingly commonplace—people have been having babies since the beginning of time. How incredible then that on the day the angel Gabriel announced that the Virgin would conceive, salvation history took on a new dimension—God decided to become one of us.
Carrying a child is an experience and responsibility reserved exclusively for women. While I am male, I can appreciate the real need for women to have communion with one another, especially to share something as joyful and unique as pregnancy. Sometimes a person just cannot do this through email, phone, or Skype—it needs to be done in person. A person reading today’s Gospel can almost feel the electric excitement of the reunion between Mary and Elizabeth leap off the page.
Mary and Elizabeth relish their coming together as kin. But even more than that, they realize that the redemption of Israel is at hand, as it is written in Isaiah 43:19: “See, I am doing a new thing!” To try to comprehend that the LORD, the God of Israel, is making himself known through human enfleshment (incarnation) in the womb of Mary is almost too much for the human intellect. Sometimes, as John the Baptist did in that Visitation moment, all one can do is leap for joy.