Radical Presence: Womb
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled by his words and began to wonder about the meaning of this greeting. So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God! Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.” Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.
“And look, your relative Elizabeth has also become pregnant with a son in her old age—although she was called barren, she is now in her sixth month! For nothing will be impossible with God.” So Mary said, “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
In those days Mary got up and went hurriedly into the hill country, to a town of Judah, and entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She exclaimed with a loud voice, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child in your womb! And who am I that the mother of my Lord should come and visit me? For the instant the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Luke 1:26-45 from the New English Translation NET Bible® ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Before looking forward, let’s look back a bit. How has the past year been for you? How have you found the periods of full lockdown? And what about the times in between, where some things started back, but still there were restrictions?
Each of us have our own experience of what Covid times and lockdowns have been like. As you read this, reach back into those memories and conjure them up. There may be painful memories. There may be happy ones. There may have been times of constraint and a sense of being cooped up. But there may have been times, almost perversely, of freedom and release.
The theme of this first week of Radical Presence is ‘womb’. This time of new birth and yet constraint. Held in, yet, perhaps, a place where new things can grow?
Over on the Radical Presence website, there a couple of articles that are worth a read. The first is by Rebecca Collins Jordan who has managed to find a ‘monastic way’ in the new routine. But it’s not easy. For many of us, we’re so quick to define everything we do by ‘work’. But Rebecca has managed to use this new time, that she didn’t want or chose, to park work for a bit, and embrace some other ways.
The other is New Zealand minister Steve Taylor who uses the famous bible passage that we started with, and the amazing painting by Filippo Lippo called ‘The Annunciation’ that now lives in the National Gallery in London, to reflect on isolation as an event that Mary lives through. But she is surrounded by divine activity and in this Taylor develops a theology of isolation that I found really helpful:
the home as a place of real, physical encounter, with God;
the home as a place of safety and security, not prison;
that our isolation time can be a time of new birth...a womb for something new...a ‘narrow space’ where God shows us something new;
that we’re not held on a roller-coaster without any power to change things. We might have no choice over the predicament we find ourselves in, but, like Mary, we can say ‘yes’ (or ‘no’!) to what God is working away doing.
As we’re all on the cusp of a time of re-emergence, with the promise of a slow release from restriction, how do we feel? Are we champing at the bit, or are we nervous and tentative?
Let’s take some time to look back at the past year and try to notice where God might have be planting new seeds. What has taken root? What could we nourish into life? What, from the past, should we maybe quietly let go of now?
A poem from Father Luke of the Alone Together website, re-framing our current ‘can’t’ into what we ‘can do…..