July 2009, Hoddesdon, England
Prior to each meeting of the andante Coordinating Committee (CoCoA), the Chair asks one of its members to prepare a short meditation/prayer to be read and listened to before starting the ‘real’ work. For the last CoCoA meeting Andrea Kett had prepared a meditation on the meeting of Maria and Elizabeth.
“About ten days ago, on July the 2nd, we celebrated the feast of ‘The Visitation’, the meeting of Maria and Elizabeth. In the gospel of Luke we read:
39At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (…) 56Mary stayed with Elisabeth for about three months and then returned home.” (Lk 1,39-56).
Here, two women meet. Although they belong to one family they don’t see each other very often because they live in different parts of the country. And they are also rather different: Elizabeth is already old when she becomes pregnant after having longed for a child all her life. Mary, on the other hand, is very young, not even married when she is informed by the archangel Gabriel that she will become the mother of the son of God. What closely links these different women is the promise of the angel that they will give birth to a child who will play an important role in the world: one as the saviour, the messiah, Jesus the Christ, the other as his pathfinder, as the man who will proclaim the arrival of the one, “the thongs of whose sandals he is not worthy to untie.” (Lk 3,16)
I have often asked myself why Mary during her pregnancy takes it upon herself to make this strenuous journey. Why does she want, at all costs, to see Elizabeth, her relative who is also pregnant? Apart from all the theological arguments I think that one important reason why she wants to meet her is because she is a woman in the same situation. She wants to share experiences, hopes and fears. She feels that both can profit and learn from each other.
This is the intention we associate with andante. We want to give women from different countries, cultures, generations, and situations in which they are living, the opportunity to meet, to come together, to share their experiences, to learn from each other and learn together.
Mary and Elizabeth are led by and filled with the Holy Spirit. They can feel it physically by the movements of their babies in their wombs, and they express it in words which have become famous: Elizabeth in the words which have been conveyed to us as the first sentence of the “Ave Maria”:
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”
and Mary in the impressive song of praise we know as the “Magnificat”:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
53He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
55to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”
Let us pray today, that we as andante, the Coordinating Committee, and also the women who will join us for the summer school, will always walk and act under the spirit of God and for the benefit of those who need our support.
Song: ‘Magnificat’ (Taizé)