A Journey of Joy – Fourth Sunday of Advent

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This Sunday’s gospel is Luke’s beautiful account of what is referred to as the “Visitation”, the joyful encounter between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, both of whom are unexpectedly pregnant. Mary has traveled “in haste” from her hometown of Nazareth to the town of Judah, a distance of about 80-90 miles. Though we don’t have any Scriptural information on her mode of travel, based on historical records of first-century Palestine, it is likely that she walked that distance. And on her own initiative.

In the scene prior to this, Luke records that the angel Gabriel visited Mary to announce that she would be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah. And by-the-way, the angel tells her, her cousin Elizabeth, who is well past the age of bearing children, is also pregnant for the first time. The angel, however, does not provide any directive or instruction for the young woman to travel. What motivation, other than pure joy and wonder at the work of God in the lives of two ordinary women to bring about his plan of salvation for all humanity, would she have had to take on such a journey? This joy is validated at her arrival when Elizabeth, upon hearing Mary’s voice, is filled with the Holy Spirit as is the child inside her who literally leaps for joy!!

Elizabeth herself has not had any information from human sources about Mary’s news. Her words to Mary are oracles – revelations made known to by the presence of the Holy Spirit which has infused her soul:

Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled (Luke 1: 42-45).

Her words attest to the working of the Holy Spirit in and around her to fulfill God’s promise to provide a Savior. Take some quiet time this week, in your final preparations for Christmas, to reflect on these words of Elizabeth and on God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, not just in her life but in the lives of each of us so that we can come to know the pure joy of the indwelling presence of God in our souls. Ask for the grace to be open to this presence. St. Augustine’s Holy Spirit prayer is a wonderful starting point:

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.

Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.

Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.

Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy.

Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.

by Danette Morris, Adult Faith Formation Coordinator

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