A Christmas Reflection on Mary and Elizabeth

CWSN member Francina Berdine shared this reflection, written by Hans Lucassen and translated from the Dutch by Francina:

It is as if more and more eyes are opened everywhere. This is the foreword of the christmas edition of our parish magazine, written by one of our lay pastors. I have tried to translate it as best as I can, and sorry for any mistakes.

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Mary and Elizabeth, two women who are at the beginning of the Luke gospel. Both are in fact infertile. Elizabeth is too old to have a baby. Mary is way too young, and not even married. Two pregnant women, and their husbands are in the background: one is deaf and mute, the other isn’t even involved. What happens in the first chapter of Luke is apparently a women’s affair, an intervention into world history, which up till then was mainly a history of men. Men who found world empires and destroy them, who go to war and submit peoples, who invent gunpowder and nuclear weapons, who practise violence and terror, who control churches and formulate dogmas, and proclaim men’s language as the highest wisdom. Men, who aside the great easter news as “It’s only women’s talk…!”

It’s as if Luke mocks all this. Because in the whole of males’ history things are occurring now without a man present. He is standing offside and plays at its best the role he reserved for women: in the background. And later, at easter, it goes the same way. When the men are still besottedly staring into space, women have long awakened from the slumber of their biggest nightmares.

An unknown girl from an insignificant hamlet will become the most well-known woman in history. Even her name, Mary/Meriam, is unoriginal. She travels over the mountains to visit her pregnant cousin Elizabeth. Two mothers to be, but how different their situation. An older woman, her face matured by sadness and disappointment, and beside her this young, fragile girl. Both happily expecting. And Elizabeth is so very moved that her child reacts in her womb. Mary, the pious girl, who timidly listens to the angel’s message. Later on, the proud mother in the stable, with shepherds and wise men at her feet.

Mary, the queen with a thousand names of honour. As a mild advocacy she is standing there, surrounded by candles. Mary, the blessed among women. A Mary like that is not someone to just be mollified. Such a Mary, one does not just crown with gold and put a sky blue robe around her shoulders. Such a Mary walks in front of the prophetic movement of God. A woman who fed her child with the spicy words of Moses and the Prophets. This way, she prepares the way for her child, to whom she refers with a clear gesture on every icon.

Mary, Meriam of Nazareth, daughter of Israel, drawn out of the Torah’s clay, shakes her head against injustice. Her protest is nourished by what she feels in her belly: a child, God’s answer to the spiral of all the violence. He will be the human of God’s reversal. She will bring that child into this world. Mary understood this: with His birth God has begun his counter-history. The gospel becomes a story of reversal and humanity. Not a tender story, but the story of God’s battle for another world. He does not fight that battle with men’s weapons that force people and destroy worlds, but with his Spirit of mercy, wisdom and a love that engages people for him and inspires them to a different way of life. With her, Mary, we meet in this Advent His birth, so that “His kingdom will come”.