Joy and pregnant expectation


“Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:39-45)

Luke’s presentation of this interaction between the two women, Mary and Elizabeth, is tender. Elizabeth, who is having a baby in old age despite many years of barrenness, encounters the young Mary, herself also experiencing pregnancy for the first time in unexpected circumstances. When Elizabeth hears Mary speak, her own infant moves, perhaps the first sign of quickening in her womb that assures her that she is, in fact, pregnant. Elizabeth marks it as a sign of joy: for her child, but also for herself. Jesus is the root source of that joy. ( I still remember the moments that I felt each of my two children move within when I was pregnant, and the tender love that awakened.)

What I see in this passage is that our joys in life are interconnected with those of others. Mary surely comes to her older relative’s house in order to share the joy and probably also some of the confusion. Luke emphasizes how much Mary “ponders” the meaning of the angel’s message. As human beings, we like to share and to turn over with our closest friends the meaning of events in our lives. I am blessed to have a strong community of female friends with whom I get together regularly, a community that is mutually sustaining. We share our joys, sorrows, challenges, tears and laughter. Joy especially is strengthened and even sacramentalized by being mutually shared and received. In the midst of our various human  relationships, the Lord is present, like the infant in the womb, there and silent, and yet the source of all love and joy.

In Advent, we prepare for the Lord’s coming. Whether we are women or men,  we are all in a way “pregnant” with the Lord, that is, the Lord is waiting to be born in us, in our hearts and in the work of our own hands, in our relationships and in our vocations. As in pregnancy, though, the control is not really in our own hands: the birth happens when the child is ready, and not when the mother is. All we can do is to be prepared to welcome him when He comes, to get the house in order.

St Paul tells us that we must be ready to do the will of the Lord, as Mary demonstrates in her Fiat: “let it be done to me according to your will.” To be willing to do what the Lord asks of us is our part. Then we wait and we trust that the Lord will show us what to do when the time comes. And we wait in hopeful expectation.


Artwork is of the Visitiation by Phillipe de Champagne, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.