Visitation and blessing – 31 May 2018
There are not many stories in scripture where there are women (only women) speaking with each other (how many can you think of?) but this is one of them. After the visit of an angel, and the conception of a child by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth to be reassured that what is happening in her is indeed from God. Elizabeth responds, moved by the work of the Holy Spirit within her own body, and she is the first person to name this child within Mary as her Lord.
This is a moment of mutual blessing. The younger woman is the most significant, she stands tall, but she is listening, and receiving the words of encouragement from the older woman. Elizabeth has taken Mary’s right hand – this blessing involves touch – and Mary adds her left hand, returning the gesture.
This picture is by Dorothy Webster Hawksley (1884-1970). Although drawing on traditional depictions of this story, in this image the woman are simple peasants. Dorothy, who never herself married or had children, was concerned with women’s roles in society and their relationships with one another. She is known for images of women showing tenderness.
The Feast of the Visitation is kept on 31 May, although this year you might be transferring it to 1 June. Whichever day you keep it, this is a day for women to be looking for the work of God in other women, and, in generosity and hope, blessing one another.
Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
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.