December 21: O Oriens! O Morning Star/ Star in the East!
- O Morning Star,
- splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
- Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
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|Elizabeth and Mary, painting in the church of El Sitio, Suchitoto, El Salvador|
It's always good to notice: who (or what) do we turn to in a crisis? Where do we go when we are overwhelmed? Who do we trust to help us to get through the unimaginable?
I have always been moved by this coming together of Mary and Elizabeth. The first time I truly contemplated it, it was because of a piece of art: "A Dancer's Christmas," of which I was privileged to see the very first performance at Boston College in 1980. The Christmas Story, which depicted the annunciation to Mary, her sharing the news with Joseph, her visit to Elizabeth, and finally, the birth itself, were all set to the astonishing "A Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
The coming together of Mary and Elizabeth was so tender, so beautiful. Their care for one another, the astonishment of both at the condition they found themselves in, and the elation-- the sheer joy of what God had done, was doing, in them and through them-- they were all captured without need for words, only movement and music. That experience has burned itself into my soul.
In this moment of being swept up in God's salvific work, Mary turns to one who might, possibly, have an inkling of what she is experiencing.
If you choose to listen to the music posted below, know that the opening bars, as I saw them choreographed--about two minutes-- are the Annunciation to Mary. When the orchestra joins in, Mary is with Joseph. The folk-song themes in the middle are Mary's visit to Elizabeth; and the final iteration of the lark-- the violin solo returned-- is the birth of Jesus.
"A Lark Ascending" performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra with David Nolan on Violin
Help us to know, God beyond knowing, of the wonders you bring to birth in us, through us, and for us, in the name of the one who is the Star in the East. Amen.