Mary's Greeting - Luke 1:41
As I prayed with the story of the Visitation from St. Luke’s Gospel, two simple words jumped out at me: “Mary’s greeting.” Something made me stop and linger over those words. The details of Mary’s greeting are not recorded in the Scriptures as it quickly moves on to more noteworthy events. But my mind and heart did not move on so quickly. What was Mary’s greeting like?
As I pondered this, different memories flashed through my mind of various experiences of greetings that have been significant in my life. One was a recurring one from my childhood. It’s the memory of the way my parents would greet one another when my dad arrived home from work each day: a simple salutation, a hug, a kiss, a word of appreciation or encouragement, and some indication of how the day was. All of this was exchanged by my mom and dad in a brief but meaningful interaction at the door. Another memory was from when I was a teenager. We went as a family to pick up my older sister at the airport when she returned after serving in the Peace Corps in Africa for two years. The long absence drew forth tears of joy for all of us upon being reunited; we just couldn’t contain it, it was so wonderful and moving to be together again. Another memorable greeting was from my first visit to the convent. After ringing the doorbell, I think I held my breath, wondering what would happen next. I’d never met the sisters before, and I was nervous. I’ll never forget the experience of the friendly smile, kind words and warm embrace of the vocation directress who came to the door – she knew exactly what I needed in that moment.
A few things stood out to me from these memories: sincerity, simplicity, familiarity, affection, connection, and desiring what’s best for the other. These are foundational for relationship. In a word, they can be summed up in love. I’m sure Elizabeth never forgot Our Lady’s greeting, even though the details of it have not been handed down to us. Perhaps part of the Lord’s desire for it not to be recorded in great detail is for moments like this.
One other thing about Mary’s greeting that captivated me, was wondering specifically what she said. Certainly, the words of a greeting are important, and perhaps if you’re like me, it can be helpful to think through and prepare what you’ll say, in some form, when you anticipate seeing someone. It seems probable to me that on her long journey to the hill country Our Lady thought a bit about how she would greet her cousin. I’m certainly no expert on Jewish customs, but one thing that occurred to me is that it’s likely that Mary’s words would have included the traditional Jewish greeting, “Shalom.” That would have been as obvious a thing for her to say as it is for us to begin with, “Hello.” Shalom means peace, and in the form of a greeting it expresses both the desire to share this gift with the other as well as the desire that God will bestow this gift on them. “Peace be to you.” Perhaps that was all that was spoken in Mary’s greeting; she may have simply said, “Shalom Elizabeth.”
A main takeaway point for me after this prayer time was to look at the way I greet others. Now, after more than a year of greeting people more rarely or not at all, we are all in a position to resume greeting one another more frequently. What will our greetings be like? I think Our Lady wants to teach me something here. Perhaps she has something to share with you, too? Shalom!
Sr. Kelly Francis, CFR