21st December. Saturday in the 3rd Week of Advent
Memorial of Saint Peter Canisius, doctor of the Church
First Reading: Song of Songs 2:8-14
(Lyrical love-poetry from the Song of Songs, about the beloved who is coming.)
The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Look, there he stands behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over an gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the covert of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.
Gospel: Luke 1:39-45
(The mutual encouragement of Mary and Elizabeth: profound sharing of faith at the Visitation.)
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.
And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
An interesting overlap
What a fascinating overlap there is between the two biblical passages for today. The Song of Songs pours out some of the lyrical love-poetry written by King Solomon for his young bride from Egypt, describing the overflowing emotions of love that she feels for him, and he for her, at the time of their nuptuals. St. Luke, on the other hand, portrays the deep spiritual friendship that bonds Mary with Elizabeth, as they ponder how God has blessed both of them, and through them, so many others who would come to a fuller life, under the influence of John the Baptist and of Jesus.
Sharing faith is not always easy. An evangelistic writer said recently: “When I tell people about my experience of joy since becoming a Christian, they sometimes say, ‘all this Jesus stuff is just a crutch for weak people.’ Do you know what I think? If Jesus is a crutch, then give me two!” But we need to share what we have felt, and it can benefit both ourselves and those with whom we share our spiritual experience.
Mary and Elizabeth both felt the saving grace of God pouring over their lives – and were not afraid to say so. Many of us were raised on the principle that ‘God helps those who help themselves’ and that displays of need are out of place in the pursuit of holiness. Maybe we need to learn again what Elizabeth says so clearly: that God is a gracious God, and it is a blessed thing to believe in that graciousness.