The Visitation speaks to me about the mutual inner significance and delight of Mary and Elizabeth in meeting each other. I could imagine that they are close together not only physically but also spiritually. When Mary arrives, their eyes look at each other so that they can see the great things God has done in their lives. Both of them experience their pregnancies in different ways but they share the same faith and trust in God’s plan because they believe that “nothing is impossible for God.”
Looking at Mary at the house of Elizabeth, I see her readiness to listen to Elisabeth’s story and advice as she comes to visit her cousin for some support and consolation. Joan Chittister is right in pointing out that “Mary does not go to the men in her life for support. She does not go to her fiancé, Joseph, for understanding. She does not go to her father for protection. She does not go to the priest of the temple for vindication. No, Mary goes to another woman” (Holiness and the Feminine Spirit, 16).
Mary and Elisabeth give us an example of making a space for other woman, showing solidarity with and encouragement to the women, especially in their difficult circumstances. “They help us survive. They bind us together to carry each other, to carry the human community, to allow others to carry us when we cannot carry ourselves” (Joan Chittister,18).
Thus, women have capacities to help other women in the midst of their struggles. Women’s experiences and compassion have connected and sustained one another in the circle of life and the struggle for life.
Mary, as a young woman, puts her trust in Elizabeth’s wisdom and understanding. She believes that her cousin will help her to see God’s will more clearly. Together they learn how to fulfill their respective vocations with passion and love for God and humanity. Elizabeth, as an old woman, willingly passes her experience, wisdom and faith on to Mary. She could prophesy clearly, hailing her cousin as “Mother of the Lord” and listening to Mary as she sings her liberating “Magnificat.”
In a society where women are oppressed and denied their rights, Mary and Elisabeth create the “space” where they can share their stories, their experiences of God, and their hopes for a better future, and where they dare to prophesy and proclaim their respective visions of liberation. Likewise, through the ages, we can find “women who have found in their faith the hope and strength to struggle for justice, for dignity, and for the right to participate in the creation of a better future for themselves and their community” (Feminist intercultural Theology, 98).
The visitation of Mary to Elisabeth speaks to me that women in different contexts and of different age groups can understand and support each other. Here we see the encounter between two generations: Elisabeth belongs to the older generation rich with experience and wisdom, while Mary is young and still has to confront the difficulties ahead of her in life. Regardless of their differences, they come together, sharing, encouraging and supporting one another, and praising God with all their hearts. Their encounter becomes a holy meeting. Their insights and acts have inspired us women to overcome our various forms of oppression through “claiming our voices, claiming our spaces to tell our own diverse stories of living” (Deeper Shades of Purple, 146).
Speaking of the central role of women in passing on the faith, Daisy L. Machado notes that “Through the decades, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, women have been the faithful transmitters of religious believe and practice; they have kept alive the traditions of their faith” (Feminist Intercultural Theology, 90). Machado’s statement, along with the visitation image, reminds me of my own spiritual journey. I could say that a woman who has sown a good seed in my spiritual life and nurtured its growth is my mother, a woman with a strong Christian faith. She not only lived her faith and devotion to God but also tried her best to pass it on to her children. When I was a child, the communist government did not allow any priest to come to celebrate the Eucharist regularly for us in our parish. Every year, from 1975 to 1990, we had only two Masses—on Christmas and Easter. At that time, I did not have any catechism or Bible to study. Living in such a situation, my mother would gather her children at night and tell us many stories, especially Bible stories. I learnt by heart many stories of women in the Bible such as Sarah, Esther, Ruth, Mary, etc.
Because I’ve had such inspiration from my mother in my spiritual journey, the Blessed Mother has a special place in my heart and my life. Considering that Mary is a woman like me, I believe we share something in common. I make a “space” in my spiritual life where I talk to Mother Mary about anything in my life. When I tell her about the struggles and concerns of my
spiritual, emotional, sexual, and communal life, I feel that she is attentively listening to me with all her maternal love. Sometimes, I believe she answers me by telling me that what is happening in my life also happened in hers. I also feel free to talk to Mother Mary about my weakness and sinfulness. In my prayer, I often ask her to pray with me and ask her intercession
for me before God. As I commit myself to studying feminist theology, I appreciate very much those women who have inspired me and opened for me a “space” to think, share, and nurture my own inner desire for a better future for all women. I do believe that women can become mentors of other women in every aspect of life. Composing a “holy space” for women to share experiences and wisdom is the greatest way to help women grow and mature in both daily and spiritual life. This is my call and my mission.
Our Lady of the Rosary, 2017