Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Spirit and The Visitation

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to go on retreat (the annual “Spiritual Exercises” for the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation). On Pentecost Sunday, the homilist (Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete) spoke of what it means to pray to the Holy Spirit. He recalled a Mexican woman he knew who explained (when he asked her how she prayed to the Spirit) that she found it “difficult to pray to a pigeon.” In her difficulty, she turned to Our Lady of Guadalupe, reasoning that it was the Holy Spirit who had made her pregnant, and she understood how to pray to Our Lady. Imaging the Holy Spirit can be difficult, as the dove is not as relatable as God the Father or Jesus. We can, however, understand the *fruits* of that Spirit, which provide us with an easier way of directing our prayer.

The original and most obvious fruit of that spirit is the fruit of the Virgin’s womb: Jesus Himself. In this week between Pentecost and the Visitation, there is a natural connection both in my mind and in our calendar between the two events. The Visitation has long been one of my favorite feast days. One of the fascinating and compelling things about the life of the Virgin is the sheer lack of information we have about her, coupled with her supreme importance in Catholic theology. The Visitation is one of the few episodes about which we know rather a lot. I find it very moving that the angel unites Mary with her cousin in the Annunciation itself: when Mary says yes to Our Lord, she is immediately provided with a companion in what would otherwise have been a very lonely moment. And the first thing Mary does is to seek out that companion “in haste.” Elizabeth is given to Mary—and Mary to Elizabeth--in a profound and beautiful way; they remind each other from the start of the miraculous way in which God entered their lives. Mary, in her purity and perfection, has no objections: this newly pregnant woman takes off on her 150 km journey right away. There are many problems she could have come up with—“It’s too far,” “I’m feeling so tired..” “I have to go alone…” None of those seem to occur to our Lady. We know the beautiful moment of their encounter, and the witness that Mary is to Elizabeth and to her unborn son.

But we do not know much of what happens during the time after that initial and miraculous greeting. I wonder about those months they spent together before John the Baptist’s birth. What did they talk about? What did they do while they were together? Was Mary the one to care for Elizabeth most of the time—or did Elizabeth (as the older cousin), instruct and guide Mary? How I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in that household!

Tradition tells us that Mary, unstained as she was by original sin, did not suffer during childbirth as other women do. I can’t help but wonder if that applies to her pregnancy as well: did she suffer from morning sickness? If so, what did she eat or cook? I have some friends and relatives who find it very difficult to eat normal food (let alone cook it) and so their first trimesters are challenging times for both themselves and their families. Ginger root is often recommended for helping ease nausea. Below is one of my favorite “gingery” recipes. This soup can be eaten hot or cold and all of my family loves it… I’d like to think that Mary and Elizabeth would have enjoyed it too, morning sickness or not! You might want to pay your own visit to a pregnant woman you know. We often bring food to new mothers, but newly-pregnant women sometimes need some extra help as well!

Carrot and Ginger Soup

Serves/Makes: 6
1/4 cup butter
1 large chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped; (or grated) fresh ginger
3 cloves minced garlic
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups carrots; (peeled & sliced into 1/2 inch slices)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
pinch curry powder

Melt butter in large pot and cook onions, ginger & garlic for 15 - 20 minutes, until onion is very soft and translucent. Add stock, wine & carrots & heat to boiling, then simmer on low for 45 minutes, or until carrots are very soft. Puree soup & season with salt, pepper, curry powder & lemon juice. Serve hot or chilled.


  1. Great reflection on The Visitation, Rebecca, thank you very much. I have to admit I've never been thinking about Visitation in such a deep and provocative way. I expecially appreciated the meditation on Mary as a pregnant woman (with all the problems --little or not-- connected with pregnancy)who doesn't feel alone in those particular and heavy circusmstances of a young not yet married woman, but donates herself, her love, her attention, to the others (her cousin with the unborn son), putting everything, expecially her whole life, in the hands of God. Probably, if we learn more to donate ourselves to the others, spending less time worrying about our problems, we will be on the right way for real Happiness. God Bless you Rebecca, greetings to all the members of your "crew" ;) Love, Milly