Everyday Spirituality

The Gift of the Visitation

Henri Nouwen says, “Icons can become yours…guiding you in all ways at all times. They will begin to speak, he says, of the unique way in which God has chosen to love you.”

From Behold the Beauty of the Lord

This is the icon of the Visitation, when Mary rejoiced with Elizabeth in an embrace. Both women were filled with the expectant joy of pregnancy. They recognized the goodness of the Lord alive within each other.

This icon was one of several gracing the walls of my friend’s home. This one in particular she loved. She had it hanging on the wall directly in front of her. As she lay for hours on the loveseat her gaze fell upon the Visitation icon. While we never spoke at length about this icon I knew how much she loved it. Gradually icons speak silently to your inner self.

One day another friend of ours was helping her with some needle work. She noticed the icon there upon the wall and asked if it was my friend and I. Without a moment’s hesitation she confidently answered, ‘Yes’.

For months I eagerly drove to visit my friend whether at home or in the hospital. When she was in the hospital I wanted to be there for her. I’d like to believe that my being present brought her a certain amount of comfort. There were sometimes when I was compelled to intervene on her behalf to the nursing staff. Some were not able to comprehend that she was very delicate.

I think about how eager Mary was to visit Elizabeth…how their presence to one another brought them both comfort. Mary was just a young unmarried girl carrying a child…not just any child, but the Christ Child. She must have found comfort just being with Elizabeth. Mary and Elizabeth had so much to share just I did with my friend.

Last year we graduated together, along with her spouse, as Spiritual Directors. My mother brought me a most beautiful statue of Mary and Elizabeth greeting each other. Sitting with a directee is a meeting of two people coming together to acknowledge the presence of God in their lives.

This beautiful sculpture depicts Mary and Elizabeth face to face mirroring one another, holding hands. Their foreheads are nearly touching.

I often sat with my friend and all I did at times was hold her hand. When she was hospitalized I would greet her with the sign of the cross on her forehead followed by a gentle kiss.

These two loving women appear to be bowing toward each other, as if they were mutually honoring the indwelling of the Spirit. Even the designs of their dresses seem to dance with joy at their meeting. These two women reflect the excitement and joy I shared many times with my friend. I am thankful for the times we had together and sad for the future times we will not have together. This sculpture was done by Timothy P. Schmalz who says, ‘I describe my sculptures as being visual prayers’. It is true for me; this statue is a visual prayer.

Everything about the Visitation was excitement and joy. ….visits with my friend were also filled with excitement and joy; until the cloud of death came to hang over us day after day. It was difficult when she did not want to talk about her death. It lurked all around us everywhere we looked, but she did not want to speak of it. I tried to keep my fears and anxiety inside, but I know it was etched on my face.

The best gift you can give someone is the gift of your presence. I can happily say I have no regrets as to how much time I gave to my friend. My dear husband encouraged me to take all the time I needed to be with her. I thank him for allowing me this luxury; it was a blessing I will forever hold dear.

One should give not according to one’s convenience but according to the needs of the receiver. I once read that Mary’s visit was an inspiration to Elizabeth. Visits with my friend were often inspirations to me. When you visit; try to bring some inspiration into the lives of those you love.

God chose to love me through my friend and he chose to love her through me.

He also chose to love us both through the beautiful images of Mary and Elizabeth.

Together we chose to share our love of God. Together we allowed God to love others through us. I will continue to allow God to use me to love and inspire others.

We brought many blessings to each other “…For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

Comments on: "The Gift of the Visitation" (4)

  1. […] Whenever I read or hear the recounting of the Annunciation the Visitation gets equal attention. The two stories are meant to be together…you really can hardly have one without the other. I have previously written about my connection with the relationship of Elizabeth and Mary. See post here: https://faithtwins.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/the-gift-of-the-visitation/ […]

  2. Beautiful words… Thnak you. I was wondering, did I meet your friend the day I met you at LAX? I’ve been wondering about that and remember the inspiring conversation we had as I was preparing for surgery myself… Be blessed!

  3. Sharon, I love reading your words of wisdom. Blessings to you!

  4. The beauty of words, of icons, friends, presence, visual prayer, inspiration, joy, comfort, sacrifice, God’s love is expressed so beautiful through the bonds of love as you bare your soul in this writing. Anointed!

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