She gazed at her left hand which was caressing her growing belly. Such a study in contradiction, she thought. This belly so smooth and taut beneath her plain work-a-day garment – the badge of a young woman with the first of many children within her; then there – her hand, swathed in unexpected blotches and wrinkles (she tugged her sleeve down a bit) – the badge of an old woman with few and dwindling years foreseen.
She fretted, and was shamed that she should do so. It had been said – there could be no doubt – that her son, John, would have a momentous future. Yet she worried. The babe had not stirred, had not pressed against his confines even once. Could he . . . could her babe be merely waiting to be born for the grave? Was he resting within her, or was he already d…
“Zechariah! Husband. How are you today, my Love?” His shoulders shrugged, his wise old hands out, palm up; well-known, well-loved lips tightened in a self-depreciatory half-smile. Elizabeth’s thoughtful hand grasped his – gave it a reassuring squeeze. He, with his free hand, gently patted her distended belly. His eye was quizzical. Elizabeth’s head drooped. A tear fell, darkening the fabric obscuring the object in question. “No. Nothing . . . yet,” Elizabeth forlornly admitted. Zechariah’s age-smoothed, gentle fingers stroked her forehead with just a wisp of connection, lovingly tucked a stray lock of grey-lightened hair back under her head shawl. His thumb passed beneath her damp eye and lingered on her cheek.
“Elizabeth?” a soft, almost childlike enquiry, wary of intruding perhaps. Elizabeth violently swayed sideways and back. Zechariah frantically gripped her shoulders to keep her on her feet. Alarmed, he hastily questioned her eyes with his own – What’s going on?! Are you alright?! Surprisingly, Elizabeth’s face was alight with joy! ‘The baby!’ she mouthed, ‘Our John!’
The sweet voice behind her, “Elizabeth, I’ve. . . I’ve come for. . . for a visit. I thought I could be of some – help?”
Elizabeth turned, Zechariah keeping a cautionary hand on her shoulder, “O Mary, sweet cousin! Don’t question how I know, but . . . I do know. It has been explained to me in the most wonderful way!” Hands extended, she laughed. Her son was rolling, and pushing, and kicking! “Mary. Mary, you are the most blessed of all women!” Mary stepped back in astonishment as Elizabeth continued, “The fruit of your womb is blessed!” Mary shook her head in puzzlement. How could Elizabeth know – and Zechariah, too, standing behind is wife, holding her shoulders and grinning wide enough to display the missing tooth which he was always at great pains to conceal. How could they know? “I am a humble woman . . .” Elizabeth glanced back and up at her dear husband, “We are just ordinary people! How does this happen to me – to us?” Mary’s eyes, no longer confused, were steady, serene, radiant.
“How does it happen, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth giggled like the girl that Mary was. “The moment – the very moment – the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped! He. He who had not yet moved to admit to life – he leaped for joy!” Elizabeth approached Mary with a rolling gait as her John still cavorted within her. She embraced Mary’s slight form and whispered with elation into her ear, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!”
Mary leaned away from Elizabeth’s embrace, yet held tightly to her hands with nervous fingers. It was true then. It hadn’t been a dream or a hallucination. It was . . . True. Mary drew in a deep breath. Then her breath burst out in synchrony with Elizabeth’s. They locked eyes, grinning and laughing in their shared joy. Elizabeth’s son was alive! And . . . the Messiah was on his way!
Ms. Catherine Lambert, O.P.