Be a womb. Be a dwelling for God. Be surprised.
~Loretta Ross-Gotta from Letters from the Holy Ground
Here is a meeting made of hidden joys
Of lightenings cloistered in a narrow place,
From quiet hearts the sudden flame of praise,
And in the womb the quickening kick of grace.
Two women on the very edge of things
Unnoticed and unknown to men of power,
But in their flesh the hidden Spirit sings
And in their lives the buds of blessing flower.
And Mary stands with all we call ‘too young,’
Elizabeth with all called ‘past their prime.’
They sing today for all the great unsung
Women who turned eternity to time,
Favoured of heaven, outcast on the earth,
Prophets who bring the best in us to birth.
~Malcolm Guite “The Visitation”
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Luke 1: 41-45 (Song of Elizabeth)
This scene in Luke is remarkable for its portrayal of the interconnected relationship of four individuals, not just two. Here are two cousins who become mothers despite utter impossibility — one too elderly and one virginal — present on this day with their unborn sons — one who is harbinger and one who is God.
These unborn babies are not just passively “hidden within” here. They have changed their mothers in profound ways, as all pregnancies tend to do, but especially these pregnancies. As any mother who first experiences the “quickening” of her unborn child can relate, there is an awesome and frightening awareness of a completely dependent but active “other” living inside.
She is aware she is no longer alone in her shell and what happens to her, happens to this other life as well. This is deeply personal, yet deeply communal at the same time – as we witnessed in the arguments about maternal vs. fetal rights that took place in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday.
The moment Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice, she and the baby in her womb are overwhelmed, filled with the Spirit from Mary’s unborn. They leap, figuratively and literally. Her voice leaps up, louder in her exclamation of welcome; John leaps in the womb in acknowledgement of being in the presence of God Himself.
How can our hearts not leap as well at God’s Word to us, at His hope and plan for each of us, at His gift of life from the moment of our conception.
After all, He once was unborn too,
completely dependent on the willingness of His mother to bear Him to birth,
completely alive because of the overshadowing Spirit of His Father.
We are all buds willed to flower by our God.
This year’s Barnstorming Advent theme “… the Beginning shall remind us of the End” is taken from the final lines in T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees”