December 21st, 2013

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Elizabeth

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Scripture: Luke 1;24-25; 39-45
When I awoke yesterday and looked out the window I was pleased to see the world covered with snow. For a moment I anticipated the joy my daughter would express later when she saw the snow.  She enjoys weather and often sits out on the deck wrapped in a  blanket to watch the rain fall.  When it snows however she has to touch it, usually with her bare feet.  I love that she needs to feel the cold wet flakes in order to receive a full measure of joy.  I’m too often rushing on to whatever needs to be done to extend my joy in the way she does.

Elizabeth’s response to her pregnancy and to Mary when she arrived in the hill country to visit her, is conspicuous for what is not present as much as for what is present. It proves Elizabeth’s godliness, the mark of a mature woman who has sieved out the bits of life that can rub you raw.  Long wounds can birth bitterness that feeds envy.  Elizabeth has none of that.  Her response proves it. When she conceived she didn’t rush around to gloat, she entered a five month seclusion, which honoured the sacredness of both her prayer and the miracle she was experiencing.

Envy, the craving for another’s reality, is insidiously packaged to entrap and restrict.  It makes the ‘seven deadly sins’, short list.    As a young woman I scoffed a little at the prominence envy is given in Scripture. It seemed paltry next to what I felt were more heinous sins.  That perspective was of course arrogant and I knew that instantly when I finally became aware of envy in myself.    The source of it was my own long wound, Autism, which at that time, was less long than it is now, but powerful nonetheless.  The craving was to have typically developing children.

What I realized as I partook of that craving was that it cut me off from enjoying the reality of my own children. Trapped in envy, I couldn’t be present in my own life, because my desire and attention was always somewhere else — in another’s reality. If I lived there I wouldn’t have savoured the joy of my daughter yesterday as she plunged her toes into the snow. I try not to forget this lesson when I observe a parent turn in casual, easy conversation with a child, or catch myself frustrated by some irritating quirk that autism pulls from one of my kids.

I believe Elizabeth learned to live with contentment in her own reality and I believe it was a lifelong lesson.  To be able to name the pain she called ‘my reproach’ without resentment means that she was determined to stand toward God throughout her life, taking the feelings of loss and shame to the only safe place she knew again and again.  The result of that daily discipline is what we see when she greets Mary with exuberance when she arrives at her house.  If Elizabeth had wallowed rather than wrestled in the mire of envy throughout her life, Mary’s arrival would have triggered all that Elizabeth didn’t have throughout her life, even in the face of her own miracle.  Envy would have robbed her of that joy.

Instead, Elizabeth utters these words as Mary’s enters her house, showering her with honour to share the joy together.

 “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. “

Lord Jesus, as we turn toward Christmas, turn our hearts toward you. Amen
This Chant, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, is the exclamation of Elizabeth over Mary as she entered her house.

(Yesterday I posted a poem and a picture inspired by Emma’s love of snow.  If you click on the TC or scroll down to yesterday’s post.