Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Feast of the Visitation and Its Meanings for Moderns

Today, some of us will celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, the day that celebrates the joyful reunion of Mary, pregnant with Jesus, and Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist.  If you're in the mood for a religious kind of meditation, see this post on my theology blog.

Some feast days come with a whole passel of traditions, including all sorts of food traditions.  This feast day doesn't appear to have those associations.  So all morning, my mind has spiraled about the kinds of traditions I'd create, if the Pope appointed me the one in charge.

Yes, I know, I'm a Lutheran and a woman, and thus, the Pope is not likely to appoint me in charge of anything.  But it's fun to play.

And yes, I hear my inner 19 year old howling with her fierce, feminist rage.  She would protest this feast day with its emphasis on pregnant women.  She would insist that biology is not destiny.  She would want a feast day that celebrated women making advances in male-dominated fields.

My middle-aged self is willing to admit that biology is often destiny, although not in the womb-centric way that the phrase is often bandied about.  I'm seeing too many people at the mercy of bodies that they have increasingly less control over. 

So, today, let's think about Mary and Elizabeth, two women at the center of miraculous fertility.  Let us think about what new life is in us, waiting to be born.

I'd encourage us to think beyond babies and future generations.  What creative work haunts your dreams?  What visions for the future make your innards leap for joy?  What social justice work remains to be done and done by us?

Every feast day needs food traditions, so today, I'd encourage us to nourish ourselves as if we're pregnant with a child who will go on to save the world, and thus needs a good head start.  Today is a great day to eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Enjoy the finest protein.  Drink an extra glass of milk--but because it's a festival day, make it a milkshake in your favorite flavor.

Then ask yourself why you don't show this level of self-care every day.  And be gentle and realistic with yourself.  Buy some multi-vitamins for future days when you don't have time to stock up on nourishing food or when you don't have time to eat.

Today is a good day to make a resolution that those days will be few and far between.

And when you get to the end of the day, take a few minutes to think about all the elders who have guided you along your path.  Who has been Elizabeth to your Mary?  You might even write a thank you note or e-mail to those people.  You might think about the younger generation who looks to you for similar guidance.  Write an encouraging note, e-mail, Facebook post, or Tweet.  Think of other ways you might serve as a shepherd for the next generation:  tutoring, reading in the schools, leading a Scout troop, getting involved with a group that speaks to your heart, donating money to a group that does good work--the list is as varied as we humans.

And at the end of today, this day of honoring all the ways we can nurture ourselves, our dreams, our potential, and others, take a few minutes to make a gratitude list.  Put on the list everything for which you're grateful.  Carry it with you into the days and weeks to come.  Remember that you are blessed in so many ways.  Remember that the world desperately needs what only you can offer.

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