Mary and Elizabeth

The tenderness of embrace

The tenderness of embrace

The Visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth is celebrated on 31st May, but is transferred to today, in view of yesterday being a Sunday.  There is a notable tone of joy in this celebration, as the embracing of the two women, each expecting a promised child of God, called and dedicated from the womb for a special and wonderful purpose, brings more than just unity of purpose, rather an inner understanding of the mysterious working of the Lord in their lives.


Psalm 85 is read this morning, and I draw our attention today to the pairing of words in verse 10:


“Mercy and truth are met together,

Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”


Another translation has this verse as:


“Mercy and faithfulness have met,

justice and peace have embraced.”


If we think of this psalm as having an underlying theme of confidence in God’s love, and at the same time are viewing it today through the lens of the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, there is a natural inclination to see the pairing of the words in verse 10 as bringing matters at variance into harmony, or, better still, matters not necessarily obvious bed-fellows to a point of complete resolution.


Let us take the second pairing first.  "Justice" (or "righteousness") and "peace".  Jesus was bringing justice to humanity; justice effecting - as in bringing about - the loving purposes of God.  Peace is the outcome as, with justice declared and established, everything falls happily into place.  They do, indeed embrace, they have, as the psalmist has it, so poetically, “kissed each other.”


The first pairing is “mercy, or steadfast love” meeting “truth or faithfulness.”  These beautiful concepts are at the heart of human relationships as God would have them be.  Christians see these meeting perfectly, as joyously and deeply as Mary and Elizabeth met and shared their news.  The quality of mercy or steadfast love, speaks of an outgoing expression of what cannot be held in.  The goodness of God is the example, or precedent, that stands as the measuring rod of our life’s attitude to one another.  Where this meets truth or faithfulness, the grounding of what is happening in relationships and individual lives cannot be any more profoundly moved.  As Mary and Elizabeth understood one another perfectly and completely, so mercy and truth reveal the true foundation to what we claim to hold dear.


In Christian understanding, the joy of these meetings; moments of embracing; cause of the kiss of affection and love, all borne on the hearts of two women, held out for our example today, reveal so poignantly, what we daily consider is the norm at present, when what is natural is restrained and expressing embrace is the wave; and a kiss of affection passed electronically screen to screen.


John Mann