Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Feast of the Visitation

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, the day when Mary goes to her cousin Elizabeth.  Both are miraculously pregnant.  As they approach each other, they recognize each other, as mothers, as miracles--even the babies in their wombs understand what's happening.  Here are the readings:

First Reading: 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm: Psalm 113

Second Reading: Romans 12:9-16b

Gospel: Luke 1:39-57

I'm a good Lutheran girl, so growing up, we never celebrated these feast days.  As I've gotten older and explored monasticism, and to be honest, as I've blogged more and needed more to write about, I've been doing all sorts of research into feast days. 

Some feast days leave me shaking my head and wondering what modern folks are to do with them.  Some feast days, like today's, make me wish I'd known about them earlier.  I think about my younger self who was enraged that so much femaleness seemed to be erased from Christianity.  What would my raging feminist self have done with this festival?

I'm not sure she'd have been appeased.  I was also in the process of trying to assert that biology isn't destiny, while also acknowledging that I was one of the first generations to be able to assert that idea.

Now that I am at midlife, I love this story of two women from two generations coming together to support each other.  I love this story of new life being held in unlikely wombs.  I am fondly remembering female members of my own extended family and offering thanks for their support.  I remember the family stories they told and the ways they included me in family gatherings.  I remember the rides to the airport, and memorably, one time that my cousin Barbara (my mom's first cousin) came to Augusta, 60 miles away, at night, to help me out of a jam caused by the breakdown of a car.  I remember that she treated it as a grand adventure.  No castigating, no lecturing.

How might we modern folks celebrate this day?

--We could write thank you notes to elders who have helped us.

--We could write encouraging notes to younger people who could use a kind word.

--We could think about our own lives--what needs to be born?

--We could nourish ourselves with care, the way we would if we carried the baby Jesus in our wombs.

--Elizabeth gives birth to John the Baptist, who will go on to say, "I am not the Messiah."  We can adopt those words as the mantra for the day.  We are not required to save the world.  That work has been done.

--We could practice seeing the presence of God, or the evidence of God's great generosity, which is all around us.

--We could jump for joy at the evidence of God, still with us in the world. We could offer prayers of gratitude.

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