Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Visitation

Da Vinci has an idyllic painting of "The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne." But in reality, Mary was probably shunned by most of her relatives. How many would believe her story? 

It's striking that the first–and only reported–relatives she visits after the Annunciation are not her parents, but her Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Zechariah. This, despite the fact that it was a long and arduous trek from Nazareth to Jerusalem or thereabouts. About 70 rocky and hilly miles on foot. What prompted her excursion?

I suppose she just couldn't contain herself. She had to share the news with someone! But with whom? Most of her relatives would naturally assume that she became pregnant through premarital sex. Who's going to believe a story about an angelic apparition, announcing a miraculous conception–when a more mundane explanation was so easily available?

Elizabeth and Zechariah were the only two relatives she could count on to believe her. After all, they had an uncannily similar uncanny experience. The angel appearing to Zechariah, to announce another miraculous conception. And that promise was manifestly in process of fulfillment. At this stage of gestation, Elizabeth was unmistakably pregnant, despite the fact that she was barren even during her child-bearing years, much less in her postmenopausal condition. 

Mary's out-of-wedlock pregnancy would leave her terribly socially isolated and ostracized. Even Joseph didn't find her explanation credible. These are the only two people who'd lend her a sympathetic ear and treat the news as cause for celebration rather than denunciation. A striking example of how, providentially, one thing leads to another. 

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