“Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went home.”
Thursday, 19 August 2021
It seems that Mary stayed until after Elizabeth had given birth. Those three months was probably a very significant time for both women. They would have been able to talk in-depth about their experience, their concerns, their questions. Perhaps they spent time praying together and doing ordinary household chores. Zachariah, Elizabeth’s husband and a priest, had been silenced by the angel until after the baby’s birth because he had not believed. So the voices that she heard at this time are women’s voices.
I have watched pregnant mothers, especially first-time mothers and seen the connection between them because they are going through a similar experience. They talk about the changes they notice in their bodies, the baby’s kicks, worries about how the baby is growing, and wondering how the birth will be. And for Mary and Elizabeth, the awareness that the babies they are carrying have a special role in the world and the responsibility that entailed.
What was it like for Mary to be present at the birth of John? Was she among the first to hold him wondering what it would be like to hold her son? It must have been a wrench for her to go home. To be without that spiritual companionship that she had enjoyed in those three months. Maybe those conversations and experiences were among those that she stored up in her heart and treasured.
She went home, much more noticeably pregnant, perhaps to the harsh gossip of some in the community, not knowing yet what Joseph’s response would be. What was it that sustained her in facing the reality of the implications of being an unwed pregnant mother in a culture that was punitive to women found to be pregnant outside of marriage?
When faced with the cost of our “yeses”, what sustains us?
What gives us courage?