Today is the Feast of the Visitation!
I saw this in the Uffizi, one of my fav's
That means that today we celebrate and remember when Mary went to her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with the soon to be born John the Baptist. I love this image, I love this whole concept. It’s one of my favorite mysteries of the rosary….and I’ve wondered why it speaks to me so. But I think, really, it’s that whole connection thing, once again.
The connections that we make, especially we women, are so important. They mean everything, in a way. It took me a long time to get there, way past the awkward high school years and the striving driven, boyfriend focused, college years. But as I’ve grown older and into the woman I am now in middle age and hopefully was meant to be (mostly), I have grown also into some of the richest relationships: friendships with women. My girl friends are such a support; even the virtual ones through email, phones, and blogging…the support gained and given through these friendships with other women give me such strength. They have pulled me out of deepest indigo blues, they have encouraged me forward in burnout and despair, they have brainstormed with me in mom dilemmas, they have brightened days with a good laugh. They have called me out from my selfishness, they have told me when the swimsuit is just too tired and for pity’s sake go buy a new one. They have listened to me vent and cry and rage and brag; saved my marriage a few times and my child’s backside as well. They are generous, genious, kind, caring, prayerful gals…..and I hope and pray I have returned the favor more than once and can continue to. In person, blog, email or phone, it all counts.
I think that is why I love this feast so. Mary did it first. She found out she was with child, and in her first trimester she journeyed to her cousin. Now, we all know what that first trimester is like: such exhaustion, illness, hunger, sleepy fatigue. And Mary set out on a long journey to be with her dear friend, her cousin. She didn’t get to hop in her comfy BMW, she had to walk or use the donkey. I would’a griped about traveling in my comfy Honda (oh, right I think I did, way back when I was in first trimester’s. oops). But she went. She went to help, not to get her own comfort, but to help. Because Elizabeth was older and was in the end (third trimester?) of her pregnancy. We all know what that’s like too: exhausted, feeling big as a whale, swollen, uncomfortable, maybe a tad irritable, just…done. So, Mary went to help. And they embraced when they met, like friends/family who miss each other do. And Elizabeth blurted out “Who am I that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” She didn’t say, “Mary! Wow, what a surprise, what are you doing here?” and start fretting about if she had enough kefir or whatever to add to lunch or if the house was clean. No, she instantly felt the baby flip around and she had those words out, I suspect, before she even really understood them, fully. That’s how it works, I think. It’s all grace. This feast is all about the grace and we see it in that painting, up there, one of my favorites.
Our friendships, the support we women give each other is unlike anything else. And it is all grace. It really is, when it’s good. We can undermine each other like nobody’s business if we choose. But when we choose to give, it’s like nothing else….except, like Mary..and Elizabeth. And that, just that, is why I love this feast day. It’s a feast about connections and grace and giving. It’s a girl feast. Because we rock and we do this better than anyone; when we open ourselves to this grace. Mary and Elizabeth did, so long ago. They show us the way, even now.