“But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you shall name him John.’” – Luke 1.13
The daily lectionary readings for the final week of Advent leading up to Christmas Eve provide a laser focus on the birth-announcements of John and Jesus.
It’s as if the church is invited to ponder the feminine role in the story of divine grace toward humankind. In the lineage of Eve, Elizabeth and Mary play leading roles in the unfolding evolution of monotheistic understanding transforming into the revelation of trinitarian mystery. Perhaps this is a nod to the feminine essence of Ruah-Spirit. Birthing life on planet earth, spiritually and biologically.
A careful reading of the Gospel reading for today (Luke 1.5- 25), will reveal that the question of John’s origins are left in question. Is John, like Jesus, also from the Holy Spirit? One can deduce that Elizabeth was overshadowed by the Spirit, though the text is silent on the matter.
The main point of the announcement to Zechariah by the Angel is to confirm that God is on the move again in Israel. We can see this more clearly when the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is paired with the promise of the Angel of the Lord to Samson’s mother, which today’s lectionary does (Judges 13). Samson is a type: the man of God dedicated to divine service, and empowered by the Spirit. Elijah is also in the line of this type. So too, John the Baptist.
Such sacred pairings invite us to ponder the principle of spiritual receptivity that transforms all manner of duality experienced in this life, into deeper wholeness:
Elizabeth and Mary.
Zechariah and Joseph.
John and Jesus.
Body and Soul.
Light and Love.
God is always on the move. Like incense arising in the advent stillness, our gentle consent in the silence creates a space of receptivity within us to receive the Presence and partake in the mystery of Christ forming in us. A poem from Rilke helps us Remember:*
“I come home from the soaring in which I lost myself.
I was song, and the refrain which is God is still roaring in my ears.
Now I am still and plain: no more words.
To the others I was like a wind: I made them shake.
I’d gone very far, as far as the angels, and high, where light thins into nothing.
But deep in the darkness is God…”
*Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poem to God, trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005) I.5.
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