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Reflection for the Visitation Mass

Libby Osgood, CND Novice

Initially, I was surprised when I heard myself volunteer to give this reflection, especially as I consider how truly inspirational and wise the messages emanating from this podium have been. However, I now realize that it was a spirit-led moment that the newest among you might offer some words on today’s feast. I’ll explain why, starting in 33 BCE and following that up with a little bit of physics.

We often think of the Mary of the annunciation story as a quiet, demure, and obedient young girl, but being a young girl, she was likely also energetic, bubbly, and joyful. She did what her parents said, and then when an angel appeared, we imagine that this angelic young girl obediently gave her ‘yes’. How sweet.

Curiously though, when we move to the visitation, only days later, if you are anything like me, your image of Mary is of a mature young woman, now with child, bravely going to be with her cousin. She is suddenly a grown-up, wise beyond her years, determined and setting forth to comfort her aging cousin in her time of need, desiring to bond over their shared miracles. This vie voyager, boldly adventuring across the Galilean wilderness as if she did it every day.

Now wait - only a few days have elapsed between the two stories, and yet my two varying images of Mary seem to suggest that years of maturity have been gained. While I imagine seeing an angel will automatically make you wiser, and Mary was a pretty special girl to begin with, but let’s reinsert the image of young Annunciation Mary into the Visitation story.

Here is a young girl, told she’s going to have a baby, terrified that her betrothed will reject her, but she has a deep sense of knowing that she is doing the right thing. This young girl seeks out her older and wiser cousin, who too, has had a miracle occur and who too, had an angel assist in the process. Mary knows about Elizabeth’s pregnancy, but nothing in the biblical passage indicates that Elizabeth knew about Mary’s immaculate baby bump, so off Mary goes, with all of her bubbly, youthful energy, to share the news with her cousin. This joyful, energetic, yet naïve young girl, leaves home to seek comfort and assurance. Not exactly the confident vie voyager we like to impose on this 15-year-old.

I imagine Mary bounding up to her older cousin, who is full of knowing, and who has seen many women have children around her. Elizabeth knows all of the good and all of the bad that can happen. Mary, in her naiveté might only know the good. This is an example of an intergenerational exchange: the simple presence of Mary, her energetic hopeful arrival, brought Elizabeth comfort and may have allayed some fears. And that it was Elizabeth’s content, still, soulful presence that must have brought peace to young Mary.

And now you must see it – why it is appropriate that I stand before you. Though I am more than twice the age that Mary was during this story, I am nonetheless filled with her same energy and joy, especially once I was given the news about my first profession, and though I am happily not pregnant, I am seeking comfort, wisdom and assurance from all of you in this shared journey that we are on, together.

We have a connection that binds all of us here – a calling to radically live the gospel, inspired by a certain French vie voyager, who came to the new world when she was around my age. We seek to do good in the world and to make it a little bit better, by helping to liberate others, following Marguerite’s example, as teachers.

While in the novitiate, I have been studying quantum physics, as I’m sure many of you did when you were in your early formation. Perhaps not. Well – what scientists have known for 100 years – from Einstein’s incredible equation – E=mc2, is that time is relative. Time is not the steady reliable, never-changing constant that we hoped it was. Time, in fact is changeable depending on the situation. For example, if we take two people: One lives at sea level their whole life, and the other on the top of a mountain. The person on the top of the mountain is actually older, because big massive objects like the earth actually slow down time, only a matter of seconds older over an entire lifetime, so it’s not an anti-aging tip, but moreso a realization that nothing is consistent.

In fact – at the quantum level, the level of the very very small, where time doesn’t even exist, we are not things with mass – we are actually energy - moving, and more exciting than that – we are all processes, all events.

Just think about a hug – a nice warm embrace. When you give someone a really good hug, after you pull away you feel different, warmer somehow. Your emotional state, your temperature, your skin, everything is a little bit different because of the hug. Only milliseconds before, that hug didn’t even exist, and once it was over, where did the hug itself go? But that process left a lasting impact. What we are learning is that, at the smallest level, life is really about events, not things.

Think about it – as human beings – by our very nature we are verbs and not nouns. We are actions. What is the name that we are given for God - I am – not just a noun. God defines godself as a verb, as movement and being. So, it’s really not surprising that when we get down to it, we are all just the connection between us – the fluid, the motion, the love.

Love is an indescribable phenomenon that has no weight, no volume, and yet it is so palpable and real. Just the memory of a loved one – perhaps your mother, your father, or a favorite pet, can send courses of love and warmth flowing through your body. Thus – love defies the bounds of time and even space. Is your mom here right now? No! But the memory of her love is as palpable as if she were.

In the visitation, Mary runs to Elizabeth for this connection, for this act of being together. So, what can we take away from this feast that we hold so dear? The knowledge that this intergenerational connection, is as impactful today to us as it was to those two women 2050 years ago. Time truly is relative, as in an instant 2 millennia can pass and we can feel as impacted as if it were today. Similarly, Marguerite may have lived 400 years ago, but her influence is seen in each one of our actions and connections today, specifically in the vow recitation that will follow this.

So my dear sisters and associates, I encourage you to pay attention to the intangible connections and processes that you encounter in the course of your day, and look for the love in them, say … during the sign of peace, we are sharing of ourselves with each other, down to our very quanta. That’s how we truly interact – on this wonderful journey we choose to live together - to timelessly share the gospel through our actions and our love, with the example of Mary, Elizabeth and Marguerite to guide us.  

Villa Notre Dame, Wilton CT, May 31, 2019

 

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