“Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honored with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’ And Mary said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my savior; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy—according to the promise he made to our ancestors—of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’ Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.” – Luke 1:39-58
I got the inspiration for this painting from the movie The Nativity Story. I painted it straight from the scene where Mary arrives at Elizabeth’s home to visit her. This is why I missed the memo about it all happening inside the house (oops!) but I absolutely love the portrayal of the simple humanity and the joy and love between these two real women.
There are a lot of things I could say about this passage from Luke. I absolutely love it, especially Mary’s prayer. But I’ll try to narrow it down!
I am struck by the fact that when Mary and Jesus came to be physically present in her home, Elizabeth is immediately filled with the Holy Spirit. In the painting I shared recently about the Annunciation, I reflected on Mary’s experience of being filled with the Spirit. And now Elizabeth is. These are the two earliest accounts of the Holy Spirit filling people in the New Testament, and since it was the Holy Spirit filling Christians that was the cause of all their fervor and ability to share the supernatural Gospel, I can only imagine what Mary and Elizabeth’s experience would have been. There is a reason for their joy and their courage. The Holy Spirit in you is unbeatable strength and courage, and Mary and Elizabeth each had such a beautiful role in giving birth to and raising their sons. Imagine recognizing Him in them and realizing that He was calling them to something great, but that He would accomplish the hard things through them.
Mary clearly realized these truths—her prayer proves it. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my savior….The almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name.” She considered him doing a great thing in and through her to be a great thing for her. Because when the Holy Spirit works through us, it is the best experience. We were made for it.