Stop to take a good long look at the image above. The women are, of course, Mary and Elizabeth, at opposite ends of the family age spectrum, each pregnant and obviously glad to be together as their handclasp signifies. Each had a look of wonderment in her eyes. Symbols of holiness adorn their rounded bellies. We can read their story in Luke 1.39-56.
I found this image while visiting the University of Notre Dame a few years ago. I don’t know the artist’s name, but the picture was used to advertise an Advent bible series. I have brought it out of storage each year since, because, if I can borrow a phrase from the poet William Wordsworth, this is “the pregnant season”. Wordsworth coined the term in his “Prelude” and did not use it in a religious context, but it does apply to the here and now because, as we celebrate Christ, who became and becomes one with us in our humanity, this is indeed a pregnant season, not only for Mary and Elizabeth, but for us, male and female, in 2019 as well.
At this time of year, we come out of our summer productivity and our fall harvest to become large with expectation. Each of us is pregnant in many ways, this year in ways that are different from other years.
We may be:
- pregnant with hope, not giving in to the threat of depression or despair
- pregnant with newly forming or unresolved questions about life
- pregnant with the realization that what we bear within us, in our minds and hearts, waiting to emerge, is not our to keep but to share, to pass on
- pregnant with gifts for others – gifts of insight, the works of our hands, words of compassion and encouragement, new ways of looking at reality
- pregnant with the unexpected and unanticipated but nonetheless worthy to be held tenderly and given to others.
One day, we will give birth, just as Mary and Elizabeth gave birth to Jesus and John the Baptist. crystallizing what is within us for the benefit of others.
Jesus and John the Baptist enriched the world. They said no to whatever diminishes the world’s goodness.
As the days leap on toward Christmas, scan the horizon of our world, for today, Christ comes to us, borne in Mary who brought the savior to John and his mother. I hope we can honor one another as Mary and Elizabeth honored each other. This is one way Christmas will be for us remarkably new, and not a backward glance into history.
-Sister Joan Sobala