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In a sermon about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, I heard they would have been about ninety miles from one another. What a long way for Our Lady to travel, but Father thought she would have been with merchants or other travelers and had the benefit of camel-power. Still, whether she walked or rode, she followed the impulse of the Spirit to be with the mother of her own Son’s herald and friend.
That impulse of friendship – to share what one has experienced with someone who will understand, who has also been affected by the Reality you encountered – is the same impulse shared among Christ’s followers after His Resurrection. They needed one another in a wholly new way – in order to possess Christ between them, in their midst.
For the Apostles, Mary and the other apostles were confirmation in the flesh of a lived experience that so outstripped their own capacity to hold it that they must have their fellow believers to make a place for it. For Elizabeth, Mary was confirmation in the flesh of the promise she had received in her own. For John the Baptist, Mary was Christ-present, and for Mary, Elizabeth and John were the first of those generations who would call her blessed.
We mediate Christ to one another in Christian fellowship in a way that makes our ‘daily round’ a vessel filled with His presence. The world, groaning with longing for Christ’s redeeming presence, had lost this dimension of friendship, of community-as-vessel. Among the Hebrews, man had been somewhat restored in preparation for His coming.
By the weekly ‘round’ of opening as a community to the presence of Queen Sabbath, man’s capacity for Christ was slowly restored. In the person of Mary, that capacity was perfected and fulfilled. The first movement of Mary to her fellow-vessel-of-presence was the first moment of contact between the Old and New Testaments, the promise and the Promised One, the capacity and the fullness of grace.
How beautiful it is that we continue to participate in this truest form of friendship in which we follow Christ in the person of one who also follows Him in us. Could any moment in history speak so eloquently against the every-man-for-himself Christianity by which so many are left without the loving care of His Blessed Mother, outside the unity of His Church, and bereft of the actuality of His Presence?
Ninety miles, how long the road
to a true friend when joy conceived
in longing seeks fulfillment, birth,
magnification in her heart!
A treasure waits within me now,
not fully mine until we share.
The gift awaits encounter, needs
true friendship to be realized.
Somehow the voice of one far off
calls from me my own truest note.
Until I hear what is proclaimed
the icon unpossessed remains.
Our conversation breathes in life,
fresh benediction flows from me,
Glory to God for mediate good
for heaven springing through this gate!
Dwelling together daily round,
a humble vessel here takes shape.
By hospitality a place
opens for those with eyes to see.
Ninety miles, small price to pay
for intimacy’s priceless gift:
infinite love framed by our own
refills signs of humanity.
All the poems are now in one volume, and I’d love for you to have a copy! Click on the cover to buy it, and click here for the recordings of all the poems.