I arrived in the United States yesterday for a few days break before beginning another stint of study at the Liturgical Institute of Mundelein University. While in New Zealand today’s feast is that of the Ascension of the Lord, I’m now a day behind and still celebrating the feast of the Visitation when we remember Mary’s visit to her “kinswoman Elizabeth.”
This word “kinswoman” has often been translated as “cousin,” and I am sure it is a coincidence that one of the “viral” images of cyberspace today is the above image highlighting the value of the friendship shared by cousins.
Growing up in Timaru I was fortunate to have cousins I saw daily at school, others in Timaru who were just babies when I left home, three half an hour south, two in Oamaru an hour south, and others I saw less regularly in Hamilton and Bluff. I also had second cousins who I grew to know and appreciate a bit later. I especially like the line “no one will ever understand your crazy family like your cousins.” There is quite a bond in this, and while these days I don’t see my cousins anywhere near enough, I always appreciate the opportunity to spend time with them.
I am sure it was this familial bond that led Mary to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth in the challenging days of their pregnancies. We know that Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah was not much of a conversationalist in those days, and Joseph (Mary’s betrothed) was struggling with the news that his wife was “with child by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
In this environment of struggle and strong mutual familial support, the revolutionary prayer Magnificat was born.
Church of the Visitation, Ein Karem
on an outdoor wall near the Ein Karem Church of John the Baptist, the Magnificat appears in many languages.