I remember, as a young curate, getting a little tired of the regularity at which the feast days of the disciples turned up! Very little is known of many of them. Wouldn’t it be easier just to have one ‘Feast of the Twelve Disciples,’ I thought. After all there are other New Testament figures who seemed rather pushed out by the twelve in the Calendar of Saints.
One such New Testament figure is St Elizabeth (feast day 5th November.) Her name is recorded in ancient church calendars, frequently with Zechariah, her husband. (A rare example of husband and wife saints.)
Of course Elizabeth features strongly in any observance of the Feast of the Visitation, but surely she deserves her own mention in the Church Calendar and so I suggest her to be included in our list of possibles in a revised Calendar of Saints.
In her honour here are extracts from the writings of two twenty first century theologians about her:
Firstly, Nicola Slee, an Anglican theologian of the Queens Foundation, Birmingham writes, about the Visitation:
This is one of the few places in Christian tradition where female connection is celebrated (women usually being considered in relation to the male), and it is a powerful image of female solidarity, mutuality and spiritual friendship (even if, in a patriarchal reading the ‘real’ significance of the event is the meeting of the unborn male babies!)
Over many years now, I have been looking for images of the Visitation (medieval Europe offers countless examples, but so, too, do other parts of the globe), collecting them and using them as a focus for reflection and meditation. I have found these images affirming of the female friendships that have been so important a part of my own life, but the Visitation is also a story that speaks of the work of spiritual friendship more generally.
And secondly, a poem by Jim Hasse SJ:
ELIZABETH GREETS MARY
The heavens dance
The earth bursts with joy
The babe leaps in my womb
My body thrills with the Spirit
A visit from God’s teen-mother
A visit from my unseen Lord
Why is this granted to me?
“Blessed are you, girl, among women.”
Blessed are we
Among Spirit filled women.
(For another reflection on the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary on our blog click here).