By Denise Trull
She is one of the patron saints whom I share with my Great Grandmother. It has always been a joy for me to take her as my own, for she was especially chosen to give comfort and understanding to Our Lady in a most anxious, uncertain time. Because of this, Elizabeth was the first to hear the Magnificat singing on wings heavenward from Mary’s heart.
Elizabeth was a person who knew how to wait. She spent long swaths of her life doing just that - waiting was her task. Waiting in barrenness over the years as she watched each of her friends birth child after child. God asked this faithful, Jewish woman, whose very honor and dignity were centered in begetting and raising children - children who were considered the sign to others of His favor - God asked her to wait for that blessing.
Day after day, I know she must have struggled with her worth. Did she ask God in sad and puzzled confusion whether she had offended Him? Was He displeased with her? Was Zechariah sorely disappointed - though, lovingly, never showed it? Were the women talking about her at the well? Was she just not the worthy stuff of motherhood? And then back around full circle she’d come to hurt and puzzled sadness once again, perhaps on a daily basis. Oh, the monumental struggle of conquering these feelings every. single. day. This was her greatness. Her trust in the mysterious ways of God’s holy will - which never wavered. Elizabeth knew well the weight, the daily cost of Fiat.
Then at last came the day, the hour, the moment, when the joy of Life suddenly fluttered within her. Did she sit down stunned, holding a half folded blanket? Was she overwhelmed as we each are at the first flutterings of children dancing within us? I picture her running, then falling into the waiting arms of Zechariah as she wept in abandoned thankfulness on his shoulder crying through her tears, “This is what the Lord has done for me, when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.” I think that embrace lasted a long and tender time.
People who know how to wait are gentle, humble, and understand the exquisite, singular joy that erupts when the waiting is over. Our Lady was in great need of just this kind of person as she traveled her way from Nazareth to Elizabeth’s house filled with secrets that pushed wildly against her heart clamoring for release, but which must be held quietly until the time was right. She was traveling step by step to one who knew well this waiting.
The sheer relief of finally getting to Elizabeth and finding that all the Angel said was true. You can feel the need Mary had of a gentle touch, a motherly shoulder to lean on, and someone who knew what was happening without having to explain. Mary was so at rest here. Elizabeth was her opened door at the end of a long road. I don't think it is heresy to say that Mary needed Elizabeth as much as we all need our own Elizabeths in life.
And at that opened door, the wait at last did end, and the song was sung - one mother to another. Two, long patient fiats mingling into one joyous praise of mercy - released.
I imagine Elizabeth had to hold up young Mary in her strong embrace at the words “He who is mighty hath done unto me a mighty thing” - the emotion of saying those words out loud for the first time probably overwhelmed Mary. Elizabeth helped her bear the weight of that sudden, terrifying joy, just as Zechariah had helped her bear her own forerunning gladness.
I find it so beautiful that Our Lady, in addition to being the greatest of friends, needed friends in return. And she was so grateful for them. Elizabeth was to be one of her best. This woman who knew how to wait in faithfulness. Mary told St Luke all about her and he wrote down the story of their meeting, word by precious word remembered like it was yesterday.
Oh, to be the comfort and rest of the Mother of God. Think of that.
I am glad she is one of my Patron Saints.