The Windows of St. John – The Visitation
We are starting the peak travel time of the year as families, separated by miles, gather to celebrate Christmas. Some of these women travelling are pregnant. They know first-hand the difficulties of travelling when dealing with morning sickness or a bladder that is being pressed upon by a developing baby.
Mary, after being told by the angel Gabriel that her kinswoman, Elizabeth, was pregnant, rushed to be with her. Not an easy journey in those days where they lacked our modern conveniences. The primary mode of travel back then was either on foot or atop a camel or donkey. But Mary was young and healthy and filled with God’s spirit so she hastened to her cousin’s home in the hill country of Judah, 90 miles in mountainous terrain, around a five day journey on foot.
I love the image of these two women, one old, reaching the later years of her life, the other young and just beginning her life. One large with child, the other not yet showing signs of new life, both sharing the mystery and wonder of miracle births.
The relationship between these women is striking. The first person Mary wanted to see after the angel’s visit was her cousin. Chances are no-one else knew her situation. She didn’t even have to explain to her cousin how it had happened. Such was the bond between the two women. Perhaps Elizabeth had served as a mentor to Mary in the past, but now, in this window, the mentor was kneeling before the younger. Even the child in Elizabeth’s womb recognized the presence of someone greater forming in Mary’s womb.
In response to Elizabeth’s welcome, Mary proclaims the beautiful prayer – the Magnificat.
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name. Luke 1:47-49
I’m not sure who the two men in the picture are, perhaps Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, and Joseph, though it is unlikely that Joseph traveled with her. Again the detail is remarkable, flowers around the edges, a lake in the background.
What a wonderful time the two women must have had together, chatting about God, life, and their babies. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months. She probably needed that time to prepare herself before returning to Nazareth, facing Joseph, and becoming the object of small town gossip.
This picture is a testimony to the beauty of female friendships.
Who is the first person you tell whenever you have good news?
This post is part of a series of reflections on St. John’s church windows. click here to follow blog