Not all gatherings are divine. Some are get-togethers of people who have only goals that are shallow and of this earth. Some people in religious contexts gather seeking The Deity or Higher Power as they understand and are truly open form something deeper. Yet some gatherings are mixed in intent. But traditional, mystical Christianity proposes believers gather in God’s presence to encounter God in intimacy and grace.
We see intimacy and grace in the Christmas story when God makes a meeting of species. The angel Gabriel came to human Mary passing on a divine proposal. But later there is another divine gathering but of two humans with a resolutely divine purpose when Mary came to her relative Elizabeth. Mary carries Jesus and Elizabeth carries likewise in her womb John the Baptis who would prepare the way for Jesus.
This group of seen and unseen shine as a gathering is one called out due to directions from above. The meaning in the Greek is ecclesia. Ecclessia is where we get church or iglesia in Spanish. To an observer with the carnal eye it is a meeting of two women who may have lumps in their bellies. To a divine observer there was more than two by far, as we will see, with women of great significance to salvation history. The divine can indeed be manifest among the humble. So Mary came to her because there was a call above her to show this. In their respective callings they created environments in their obedience of right praise by the merits of Christ present in the flesh and the Holy Spirit being poured out on flesh.
“During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “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? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:39-45).
traveled to the hill country….. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord[n] should come to me?—– These lines show this great fellowship to be a case of the “Old is revealed in The New” (Augustine of Hippo). These details have been pointed out by Scott Hahn in Hail, Holy Queen and Tim Staples in Behold Your Mother as closely related to an Old Testament story. When the Ark of The Covenant went to the hill country of Obed-Edom and then to King David he said closely parallel wording to that of Elizabeth. What we see here is a special recognition of the presence of God in a place that is out of the way but yet appointed. Mary would be the new Ark of the Covenant. Mary serving as a handmaid of the Lord stands as one who bridges the Old Testament to the New Testament. And for Christians there is an opportunity in humility to engage in right praise as vessels unto God.
and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice—— In this line is a layer of worship in spirit and truth (John 4) that speaks of a new Ark of The Covenant and its proper devotion. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and translated into Greek. The New Testament was generally written in Greek including Luke. In the Old Testament the term “cried out” is used many times but there was one word for it that was used only when the Ark of the Covenant, an object that was sanctified and filled by the presence of God, was used. This word was used seven times in the Old Testament and used only once in the New—-right here. True this conversation was originally in Aramaic but Luke has a way with words in translation for a theological purpose. As to our devotional purpose we can see the presence of Jesus as both divine and inherently a worship event. But notice what is crucial here: Elizabeth cried out in praise because she was filled with the Holy Spirit.
filled with the Holy Spirit,…. the infant in my womb leaped for joy—- This confirms even more for us that this gathering, or church, on this front yard in Judea is bigger than two. We know from other scriptures that the Holy Spirit is a person. That makes three. We know the Holy Spirit fills people and not things so John makes four. And if John is a person in the womb then so is Jesus so that makes a party of five. We can apply right there that in a valid church gathering there should be an openness to life in all its forms and the filling of the Holy Spirit. We see this repeated by Luke in his sequel, Acts, in how the early established church had that experience. It is fitting that Mary was one of that party of 120 on the day of Pentecost. She knew the difference surely between goosebumps and the Holy Spirit.
Blessed are you who believed—– This is the last but not least mark of true church we can get and if we are not careful we will miss it. Mary is not to be understood as a model of faith because she was a bullseye target for the Holy Spirit to conceive Jesus and be an incidental vessel. She is known in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition to be one who believed because she cooperated in her faith and works with God’s will. This shows the mark of a true church to be obedient to God’s will in pursuit of holiness. The theme we get so much in the Bible is that, “believe,” is a pregnant word that assumes a corresponding action to what God asks..
If ones experience of God’s kingdom begins and ends with sitting in complacency and prioritizing personal happiness then it is not God’s kingdom but a kingdom of self. In this passage we see that the Holy Spirit indwells by how we infuse grace and a resolved manner of obedience. Today we can ask, are we caught up with the gatherings and mentalities of the world in our religious communities that hinder us from those what is divine?
Most blessed are you among women— When we are blessed it is to be a blessing and of the type that counters the evil of the world quite assertively. If we get out into a truly blessed mindset, we can be a light in the world that casts out darkness. This term is also used in the Old Testament for women that nail or cut off the head of the enemy literally (Jael, Judith). If you are in sync on the details above, how does one not take the fight to the enemy with spiritual weapons? We do that by continually relying on God’s grace and applying such grace in simplicity. Mary in her yes, with humility, shows a submission to God that changes the world.
Years later Paul saw it this way saying, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (2 Corinthians 10:4).Paul goes further in the implication for how Christians engage in warfare in basic principles. Later he wrote, “For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise as to what is good, and simple as to what is evil; then the God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you” (Romans 16:19-20).