Saturday, May 31, 2014

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, Mary with Jesus, Elizabeth with John the Baptist. As they approach each other, they recognize each other, as mothers, as miracles--even the babies in their wombs understand what's happening.

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.

My middle-aged self is willing to admit that biology is often destiny, although not in the womb-centric way that the phrase is often bandied about. I'm seeing too many people at the mercy of bodies that they have increasingly less control over.

I love this story of new life being held in unlikely wombs.  I love this message that biology is not destiny, that our bodies can do all sorts of wondrous things, like heal, generate new life,

There are other aspects of this story that aren't immediately apparent.  I love the intergenerational care that's present in this story.  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.

This year, I'm thinking about the elements of discernment, call, and retreat.  God calls both Mary and Elizabeth, and both say yes to a radical change of direction to what they might have planned.  And it's a change that will have an impact on the rest of their lives, not just a year or two.  I love the idea of taking some time away to support each other and to prepare.

On this feast day of the Visitation, let's take a few minutes to listen for God's call.  What new life waits to be born?  What new project of God's can only proceed if we say yes?  And how can we nourish ourselves so that we're ready?

If you need ideas for how to celebrate, how to make this feast day feel more festive, see this post on my creativity blog.

Here are the readings for today:

First Reading: 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm: Psalm 113

Second Reading: Romans 12:9-16b

Gospel: Luke 1:39-57

Here's a prayer that I wrote for today:

Creator God, today we offer thanks for Elizabeth and Mary, women who were willing to follow your invitation into adventures that must have seemed impossible.  Open our hearts so that we hear the invitations you offer to us.  Give us the courage to say yes to you.  Plant in us the gifts that the world needs.

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