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.
Periodically throughout the year, we have to go back to Christmas and remember the pure joy of it.
I say pure joy all too aware of my reservations, for nothing in this world is pure, least of all Christmas with its pother and worry. For many people Christmas is, at best, a promise. And, too often, a disappointment.
But that's why we have to celebrate Christmas throughout the year, which -- I admit -- sounds almost unbearable.
And so, with that said, let's celebrate Christmas:
Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth appears to be the high point of Saint Luke's Infancy Narrative. We would expect Jesus' birth in Bethlehem to be the climax of the story. There are the angels appearing in the sky and excited shepherds rushing to the manger to see the child.
But Luke does a strange thing when he arranges the parallel stories of Saint John's birth and Jesus' birth. Both have "annunciation stories" when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and Mary. Both have stories about the children's births, one concerning John's name and the other about the angels and shepherds. But the two different histories converge with Mary's trip to Jerusalem, Elizabeth's greeting and Mary's Magnificat.
This "icon" describes the rapturous pure joy of two women and their greeting. Elizabeth is old and unexpectedly pregnant. If she has any anxiety about her old age and her child she surrenders it immediately when she ponders her husband's story of the Angel's appearance in the Holy of Holies.
The young Virgin Mary likewise must surrender her anxieties about childbearing and her reputation as she remembers the same Angel's message to her. Both women believe in God's word to them and find comfort in that assurance.
So when they meet their joy must be amplified. We call it synergy; when people bring spirit and energy to their encounter they come away more inspired and energized by their sharing.
This can only be a moment of Pure Joy for the women. They share a secret unknown to the world. The authorities in Jerusalem and Rome cannot imagine what is happening in Zechariah's house. It is beyond comprehension.
Their joy signals the end of hypocrisy in Jerusalem and tyranny in Rome -- and throughout the world. These humble women who by every standard are powerless foresee and foretell the end of this world's power. God's victory is sealed; the oppressed will be raised up; the prisoners, freed; the hungry, fed; and the afflicted, comforted by their sons.
In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. though you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls.