A Visit and a Song (Part 01/04)

By Debie Thomas

The angel Gabriel leaves, and Mary runs. “With haste,” the Gospel writer tells us on this fourth Sunday in Advent, a newly pregnant teenager makes for the hills, not slowing down until she reaches the home of Elizabeth, her also-pregnant cousin. When her kinswoman welcomes her, she bursts into song — a song so subversive, governments twenty centuries later ban its public recitation.

love this Gospel story. I love it because it’s one of the rare narratives in the Bible that is female-centered. (The priest Zechariah — Elizabeth’s husband, and the man-presumably-in-charge — is literally silenced throughout.) I love it because its setting is domestic, intimate, and earthy. But most of all, I love it because it allows me to view the mother of Jesus as a whole person. To view her, in Nadia Bolz Weber’s language, “without sentimentality or cynicism.”

This is no small achievement, because we (the Church) have buried Mary under so many layers of theology, piety, and politics, she’s nearly impossible to excavate. Some of us pray to her. Others ignore her on monotheistic principle. Some call her “Theotokos,” the God-bearer. Others champion her as a model of holy femininity — ever sinless, ever virgin, ever mother. To some, she is a child prophet extraordinaire. To others, the victim of divine manipulation.

Would the real Mary please stand up? Well, I think she has. I think Luke’s account of the Visitation gives us a portrait of Mary that cuts through most of our assumptions and stereotypes. A nuanced portrait that balances fear with courage, doubt with faith, vulnerability with strength. Along the way, it gives us a portrait of ourselves — of what we, the Church, might become at our very best. Here, then, are three gifts I believe the Visitation story offers us for our Advent meditations.

The gift of community: As soon as Mary says “yes” to Gabriel’s astonishing request, she goes “in haste” to see Elizabeth. She doesn’t isolate herself. She doesn’t keep God’s revelation a secret. She doesn’t play Lone Ranger and attempt to go it alone. Instead, she seeks out a fellow-traveler

Although Luke doesn’t elaborate on Mary’s reasons for visiting Elizabeth, it’s easy to imagine why a girl with a story as crazy-sounding as hers might make such an urgent journey. Tradition tells us that Mary is only thirteen or fourteen years old when the angel Gabriel appears to her. In her cultural and religious context, her pregnancy is a scandal. At best, it renders her an object of scornful gossip. At worst, it places her at risk of death by stoning.

Needless to say, she needs safety, affirmation, empathy, and companionship. She needs someone to recognize, nurture, deepen, and celebrate the work of God in her life. Someone who will receive, not reject. Love, not judge. Nourish, not condemn.

Could there possibly be a better job description for the Church? A better prototype for Christian community? What would it be like if we sought each other out with the trust and openness of Mary? What would it be like if we (like Elizabeth) received with tenderness the marginalized and vulnerable people who dare to come to us, seeking refuge and nurture? What would it be like if our communal worship echoed the full-throated call-and-response of these two kinswomen who find themselves caught up in God’s bold, risky, world-changing work, and decide to find strength in each other’s company?

In this Gospel story, Luke essentially describes the first Christian worship service in history. Mary and Elizabeth — the young and the old, the unmarried and the married, the socially established and the socially vulnerable — finding common ground in their love for Jesus. As Henri Nouwen describes it, “God’s most radical intervention into history was listened to and received in community.” What a gorgeous and challenging example for us to live up to.

to be continued…

#MoralStory: Patrick Henry Hughes Story

Born without eyes and without the ability to fully straighten his arms and legs 31 years ago, Patrick is not able to walk and has had surgery to insert two steel rods to his spine to correct scoliosis. He has had artificial eyes fitted and uses a wheelchair. While for most of us, this may sound like the makings of a story of tragedy, instead it is one of triumph.

About his limitations, Patrick said: “God made me blind and unable to walk. Big deal! He gave me the musical gifts I have and the great opportunity to meet new people.”

Along with his remarkable musical talents, Patrick has excelled at school and university, graduating magna cum laude from the University of Louisville in 2010, where his major was Spanish, which he speaks fluently.

After Patrick’s birth, his parents felt confused and upset, and their hopes and dreams for their son began to fade. His father, Patrick Snr asked, “Why us? We’ve played by all the rules.”

It was around the time Patrick was nine months old, that he was placed in front of a piano, and incredibly at that young an age, he demonstrated a natural musical talent.

His mother said, “You could go up and hit a note and no matter where it was on the piano, within one or two tries, he would find that exact note.”Read More »

Make Room

*

Family hiding from the storm
Found no place at the keeper’s door
It was for this a Child was born
To save a world so cold and hollow

The sleeping town did not know
That lying in a manger low
A Savior King who had no home
Has come to heal our sorrows

Is there room in your heart
Is there room in your heart
Is there room in your heart
For God to write His story
You can come as you are
But it may set you apart
When you make room in your heart
And trade your dreams for His glory
Make room in your heart
Make room in your heart

Shepherds counting sheep in the night
Do not fear the glory light
You are precious in His sight
God has come to raise the lowly

Mother holds the Promise tight
Every wrong will be made right
The road is straight and the burden’s light
For in His hands He holds tomorrow

#ShortNews: 1,500 poor people have lunch with Pope

As it has become customary, 3 years from the establishment of the World Day of the Poor called for by Pope Francis to mark the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope joined poor people and volunteers in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall for lunch on Sunday.

After celebrating Mass for the poor in St. Peter’s Basilica, during which he described them as “the treasure of the Church” and told believers “the poor facilitate our access to heaven”, the Pope addressed  the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer and noted the statistics regarding poverty and society’s painful indifference.

He then joined some 1,500 poor people and about 50 volunteers in the nearby Paul VI Hall for a lunch composed of lasagna, chicken with mushrooms and potatoes, dessert, fruit and espresso coffee.

Before the simple meal was served in the beautifully decked-out hall, the Pope thanked all those present and asked God to bless them and their families.

Source: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-lunch-vatican-world-day-poor.html

#ShortNews: Keep your hearts open to God and ‘keep journeyng,’ Pope tells Thai youth

Dear Young Friends,

I know that this evening you are keeping a vigil of prayer, you are praying.  And I know that others are still on their way, journeying here. How beautiful these two things are: to pray and to journey!

There are two things that we have to do in life. We have to keep our hearts open to God, since we receive our strength from him, and we have to keep journeying, because in life one can never stand still. A young person cannot retire at the age of twenty! He or she must keep walking. He or she must always keep moving forward, always going uphill.

One of you can say to me: “Yes, Father, but sometimes I am weak and I fall”. That doesn’t make any difference! There is an old Alpine song that says: “In the art of climbing, the important thing is not to keep from falling, but never to remain down on the ground”.

I offer you these two pieces of advice. Never stay down, immediately get up; let someone help you to get up. That’s the first thing. The second thing is: Don’t spend your life sitting on a couch! Live your life, build your life, do it, keep moving forward! Keep advancing on the journey, get involved and you find extraordinary happiness. I can assure of you of that.

May God bless you. I am praying for you; please pray for me.

Source: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/pont-messages/2019/documents/papa-francesco_20191120_videomessaggio-giovani-thai.html

#ShortNews: 60 churches damaged by Venice floods

One of the most ancient churches of Venice, a Byzantine basilica established in the year 639, counts among the 60 churches damaged in three exceptional floods last week, officials said Tuesday.

The ancient Santa Maria Assunta Basilica, and the adjacent Santa Maria Fosca church, were “abundantly flooded” three times last week, with the lagoon salt water seeping into mosaic floors and the marble columns, said Alessandro Polet, spokesman for the Venice Patriarchy said.

The basilica and its mosaic floors have been cleaned with fresh water, but the extent of the damage will take time to assess. “Damage from salt water you only see after time,’’ Polet said.

Because the salt water penetrates the building materials, damage is often much higher and deeper than the actual water levels. Due to its position in the lagoon, the water took longer to recede than from the historic center of Venice.

Source: https://apnews.com/15661058ada0425a9ff528fe1383e5f4