The First Hail Mary

When we lived in Ohio, my sisters and parents were always offering to help with my kids and I was so grateful for not just the support, but the love my kids have always had around them.  One of my favorite things each year is when my sister, Mimi, would take the kids out before Christmas for a “Secret Santa” day of doing good deeds.  Some of these included putting a stack of pennies near the “Sandy” horse at the local store for kids to be able to ride when their parent would say “I don’t have any change”, or paying for someone’s lunch in the line behind them at a fast food place.  Usually it would also include a stop to either an animal shelter to pet homeless animals and donate food, or to a local nursing home to bring joy and some cookies to those whose family had seemingly forgotten them. Aunt SuSu would take on a family in need before the holidays, bringing food, presents and a Christmas tree, and do it all in the name of a gift from all of us.

Inspired by these memories, I asked the kids the other day what kind of service we could do this busy week before Christmas to rekindle the kindness apprenticed in the school of Aunties.  “LB”  offered to take an elderly man in the neighborhood (who our family had befriended on walks during the summer) to lunch and spend time listening to him share his stories. I can’t tell you the joy that brought to our elderly friend, just to be considered.

Today’s reading from Luke 1:39-45 reminds me of the generosity of those who consider others during their own busy season.

Luke 1:39-45 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Mary Visits Elizabeth. 39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled”.

What strike me about today’s reading:

  • Yesterday, the “collect” prayer for mass referred to Mary as the “dwelling place of divinity”.  I whispered that line to myself for an hour or two after reading it.  I really pondered what that meant; that God chose Mary for his dwelling for almost a year before becoming Man.  Ten months with the best kept secret in the universe for all ages? What would that be like?
  • In this time of knowing, waiting, and wondering, Mary is prompted to go visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. John was the fulfillment of a prophesy: as the one who comes before the Lord, “a voice crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord as Isaiah the prophet said”.  (1 John 1:6-28). So Mary, young and with child early in her pregnancy, travels the long distance to take care of Elizabeth, walks in the door, and John the Baptist does a leap in Elizabeth’s womb.
  • When Elizabeth is “filled by the Holy Spirit” she says the very first HAIL MARY prayer in a “LOUD VOICE“: “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?” There were no telephones, no computers, no texting.  Mary would most likely not have written a note to Elizabeth explaining what her complicated circumstances.  By the work of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth KNEW, as did the unborn John the Baptist (who wouldn’t have read the letter, even if there had been one) by leaping in her womb.  I have been pregnant three times, and I have never experienced a sixth month baby leaping in my womb.  Even Cirque, who is a ballerina.  Kicking yes.  Probably from second position, but leaping? No.
  • Let’s think about Elizabeth, whose husband was struck mute during this time.  The priest, Zechariah, her husband, was featured in the readings from yesterday, Luke 1:5-25, and we read he had a hard time believing the angel that told him Elizabeth would become pregnant in her old age with John the Baptist.  He sequentially lost his speech. And consider, that when his son is born, he speaks again, and anyone watching and waiting for this miracle child sees the association of another miracle of speech with his father, a holy man.  Finally, I consider what Elizabeth says, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” No doubt, Elizabeth has connected her husband’s loss of speech to his disbelief in the Lord’s plan for her family, and is praising Mary for her faith, which has lead to this unimaginable and historic encounter of these two women, pregnant with the two most pinnacle births in the history of mankind.

As we journey to Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph this weekend, may we turn our hearts to God and those around us.  Seek to serve others in our midst with faith and trust in God’s providence over our every moment of our lives.



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