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A reflection on Luke 1:26 – 35 Posted October 2017
By Sister Hilary Lyons
What was Mary doing that evening/morning – setting a fire, chopping vegetables, mending clothes, cleaning up in their hut… when the place lit up around her and a voice said: “Hail Mary full of grace you are very blessed by God!”
Mary was startled by other-world contact as we all are, but the voice was soft and reassuring as she heard, “Don’t be afraid Mary, you are going to conceive and bear a son. He will be great, – Son of God… reign for ever… House of Jacob … throne of David…Son of the most High!”
Surrounded by mighty possibilities, she was steady enough to question this Angel: “How can this be done. I am still a virgin?”
“The Holy Spirit of God will come upon you, the power of the most high will overshadow you. He will be called Emmanuel which means God within us…”
Was she able to think? Could this be her?
A little reassurance was provided “Your cousin Elizabeth is six months pregnant.” Maybe it ran through her mind that this might be the great delivery of Israel, so long dreamed of, – but could I be the one chosen? Nothing is impossible with God! Swept into an ecstasy of creative Love she answered: I am the handmaid of God, let what you have said happen to me.
And the angel left her
Peter would have understood on Tabor: ‘Looking up they saw no one but only Jesus.
Bleak sentences indeed!
Whatever she was doing, when the voice of God lifted her into a place outside herself, was still there to be done. Did she wake up the next morning with a jolt, and say “Did that really happen? Am I pregnant?” She would not know for at least another month, for Mary was human.
Whom would she tell? Who would understand? Maybe they would think she was a fake visionary. There are always people like that in every culture and there was no lack of them in Palestine in those days. We do not know. But she did know that her elderly cousin was in her sixth month.
For sure she told her family. Possibly they knew already that the elderly Elizabeth was pregnant, such news travels fast as we know from our African experience. Elizabeth would need help, maybe it would be good to visit her. The ordinary took over. No more angels.
Visit Elizabeth? Her mother took out the camel hair bag and began to pack some few things for the journey. There would have to be some food. Oh, and a present for Elizabeth! Maybe her father, like all fathers, would have said: “You are a very young girl to take a long journey like this. You need to be escorted. And I will give the mule.” And like all parents will, she was advised to do what the escort told her in terms of safe resting places. And maybe a reminder that the hills are full of bandits and Roman soldiers on the loose…
On and on, ordinary everyday stuff swirled around her while in her heart Mary grappled with her Faith. Had this really happened? Did she just imagine it? Her good sense returned to claim its place. Maybe she was too insignificant to be chosen. But she knew deep inside that there was one woman on earth who would feel her feeling. She went with haste into the hills.
When she arrived and Elizabeth heard her voice she cried out “…Blessed is she who believed that the promise made to her by the Lord will be fulfilled.” All Mary wanted to hear to strengthen her faith! It is no wonder that the rapturous joy of both women reached the child in the womb who did a somersault in delight, the three thus creating a most wondrous and Blessed Trinity of Love.
The ordinary once more took over. Zachariah and Elizabeth needed care. Zachariah was dumb and Elizabeth was pregnant past childbearing. I feel sure that Mary often said to herself “Nothing is impossible with God.”
God literally shows up in the ordinary.
The author, Hilary Lyons mshr, is an Irish Holy Rosary Sister who worked in Sierra Leone for many years, and contributed considerably to developing concepts of Public Health.