39 In 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 leapt 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 leapt for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be* a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
The two stories that Luke has been following now come together, as the women meet. We see in their stories how the word of God, spoken by the angel, comes to be fulfilled. After the angel’s announcement to her, Mary prepared for a journey. Elizabeth and Zechariah lived in the village of Ein Karem, today a suburb of Jerusalem. It would have been a 9 or 10 day walk for Mary, and she would have had to travel along with a group of relatives or merchants, perhaps going to Jerusalem. It would have been much too dangerous a trip for a girl to undertake alone. Perhaps she wanted to help her cousin Elizabeth; perhaps she needed advice from the older woman about how to handle her situation. At any rate, she arrived at the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
There is a tradition in Ein Karem that a spring sprang up where the two women met, and has flowed there ever since. There is a spring, whether it was miraculous we do not know, but it is still there and pilgrims come to dip their fingers in the water.
What scripture does tell us is that when Mary greeted Elizabeth the babe the older woman carried leaped, and she felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth spoke to Mary from the power of the Spirit, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” She expresses that she is honored that the mother of the Lord comes to her. She tells Mary that she is blessed for believing that the words spoken by the angel for the Lord will be fulfilled. We see the faithfulness of both women in her words.
Perhaps it was just those words, that reassurance, that Mary needed, for she sang the beautiful hymn we call the “Magnificat”. We will read those lovely words tomorrow.