Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

St. Mary Visits Elizabeth

Sermon / Homily on Luke 1:39-56

Incarnation is an Inside Job

by Peter Woods

The fecund feminine

Allow me a quick recap of the map that we have been following through these weeks of Advent.

Week one: the outer chaos of external events such as the destruction of the temple, and their modern day equivalents in multiple contexts around the world lead one to “lift up your eyes for our redemption is at hand”

Week two: the preparation of the outer ground with the end of “Access control” with the leveling of religious mountains of exclusion, the filling in of valleys of suffering and the straightening of crooked paths, so that a level pathway of equal opportunity can lead to God.

Week three: moves us inward into the heartspace, where the people who come to see John the Baptizer, Priests, Tax Collectors and Soldiers, are not told to give up their tasks when they repent/change, but rather to stay with those tasks bringing to them Compassion, Ethics and Non-abuse of power respectively.

Week four: finds us with Mary having recently conceived by the overpowering of God’s Spirit, going to visit her cousin Elizabeth, where the two women celebrate the fecundity that comes as the consequence of inner journeying.

And so to the Gospel for Sunday

Luke 1:39-56

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.”

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

This prayer of Mary is not dissimilar to Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel and it raises a question.

Why do women who are touched by God have their prayers recorded by a patriarchal religion that viewed women as possessions and not people?

Why would these words find a place in the hearts of the men who made the decisions of what to include and what to leave out of their Sacred Texts that they regarded as God’s Word?

Could it be because the Holy Spirit is female energy? A nurturing fruiting energy that even hardened religious men find indispensable on their journey to wisdom?

The Hebrew word for Spirit is in the feminine case. The spirit that overpowered Mary was a feminine Spirit. This was not rape, this was a fecund embrace.

I am a man. A man who has spent my life being taught and told to take charge. To lead, to decide, to dominate.

I keep hearing of, and being invited to mighty men conferences, and I am sure that the intention of developing a wholesome masculine spirituality is important in a world where so many men seem to have lost their way and their sense of identity.

I never accept the invitations.

What concerns me is that very few of the men who go off to the mighty men conferences seem to return having made that essential journey which Richard Rohr calls “From Wild man to Wise man”

Mighty men, in fact, seem to return more determined to dominate and govern their families in ways that sees no decrease in the South African statistics of domestic violence and the abuse of women and children.

So I wonder if mighty men are any wiser?

It would seem from the Gospel this Sunday and from the readings of scripture that wisdom requires female fecundity to fruit.

Say that Wisdom is thy sister” (Proverbs 7:4)

Wisdom is known by her children” (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35)

Could it be that the fruiting of God’s working in human life cannot be understood apart from the fecundity of the womb.

When I look back at the map I have discerned in Advent this all begins to make sense. There is a journey from the chaos of the time, wars and rumours of wars, through the ground leveling preparation for God, the entry inside to the heartscape of compassion, ethics, and non-violence, finally to feminine fruiting.

There is in the journey from wild to wise, from outer to inner. A very necessary move from spear to womb.

From force to fecundity.

It is the eternal feminine that brings the truly redemptive processes for humankind to birth

Whether you speak of economics, politics or ecology, it is the nurturing, holding energy of the feminine spirit of God that is at work in what is holding and healing our lives on the planet. Of course I am not denying the need for testosterone.

Where would we be without the Sea Shepherd ramming whalers in protest against their killing of those beautiful behemoths?

I am, however, convinced that we are most likely to build something whole and lasting when we “enwomb” rather than “impale”

For some years now I have meditated on that leap of John the Baptizer in his mother Elizabeth’s womb. This desert dwelling, camel haired, locust eater, (as opposed to lotus eater) responded en utero to the gentle arrival of feminine spirit when Mary came to visit.

Was it this sensitivity which stayed with John and fruited into the profound discernment that knew when it was time to hand over to Jesus and step out of the way, and into history?

Of course I will never know. The speculation is helpful for me though as I come to this final week of preparation to receive Immanuel.

Would that I will find enough feminine spirit moving in my life that something may leap in me, when the yet unborn Christ child comes to visit this Sunday.

I have done with being Wild. Holy Mother help me to become wise.

See Also:

Sermons, Bible Commentaries, Bible Analyses on St. Mary's Visit to Elizabeth

Malankara World Special on St. Mary

Malankara World Special on Shunoyo of St. Mary

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