My husband and I named our beautiful third child Elizabeth. I was asked many times if we had named her after St Elizabeth of Hungary or Portugal and there would usually be surprise when I replied St Elizabeth of the Visitation, perhaps a sometimes overlooked Saint. It was during my pregnancy that I felt particularly moved by the story of the Visitation. When my husband was on out on night duty I would pray the Rosary alone; I would read the passage from Luke’s Gospel over and over again and send it to my friends, it spoke to me loudly in so many ways.
Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant. She was on the first Eucharistic Procession carrying Christ to her cousin St Elizabeth. The story is a perfect model for everyone today: how we should bring Jesus to others like Mary did and also how we should be overcome with joy as we welcome Jesus into out homes as Elizabeth did.
There are not many accounts in the Bible of Mary’s pregnancy other than the Visitation and the Nativity. Mary was pregnant for a whole nine months; she walked, talked, cleaned, ate and slept while carrying Jesus. She made a long journey to visit Elizabeth and again to give birth in Bethlehem, carrying Jesus.
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” Luke 1:39-41
Mary would have understood Elizabeth’s sorrow in many childless years, she visited her cousin to share the joy of being pregnant together. Women are naturally drawn to the company of other women but even more so when pregnant. Each week of pregnancy brings many changes for mother and baby to share that time together is truly beautiful.
This passage reminds me of all my wonderful Mum friends; friends who have brought around meals after a new baby, prayed and chatted with me or like angels visited completely unexpectedly when I am having a difficult day.
“And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible” Luke1:36-38
Mary was chosen by God to carry Jesus as Elizabeth was chosen by God to carry John the Baptist, she was even beyond the age of having children. When Mary visited Elizabeth she was six months pregnant, her baby would have been kicking frequently. I do not enjoy being pregnant but those last three months are always lovely. The last few months are filled with waiting and preparing for the baby, imagining life after baby is born. Most of the sickness is usually gone in place of a delightful waddle (perhaps a glow). Fit is always a beautiful privilege to be pregnant, to carry and love a baby. When I was pregnant with my first I was working as a nurse on an elderly care ward. So many times there would be an emergency on the ward or a patient had passed away and in the middle of all that stress I would feel the baby moving around. It was in those moments that I really felt like a mother and I felt incredibly close to God.
“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:41-46
Elizabeth’s baby did not just move around in the womb like I have felt my babies Elizabeth’s baby leaped in the womb, like King David “danced before the Lord with all his might” (2Samuel 6:14) Saint Elizabeth was overcome with joy for the Lord and so was her baby.
St Elizabeth shows us a beautiful joy in her pregnancy, and in Our Lady’s pregnancy.
She shows us how to respond when meeting Our Lord in our homes and in the people we meet.
St Elizabeth shows us how to receive Christ joyfully in our hearts when we go to church and receive our Lord in the Eucharist.
Image: The Visitation, Philippe de Champaigne, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons