Why the haste? Was Mary bursting to tell the news? A young pregnant unmarried mother with her story of a divine conception? If so, why the rush to go to her kinswoman’s house some distance away? It was surely a story worth telling firstly to her Nazareth relations and neighbours? But no, Mary chose to travel. Alone? Possibly, we’re not told of any companion.
Many have speculated on Mary’s reasons for going away in haste. Was it on an impulse to get away from village gossip? Were her local relations (on her side and Joseph’s) scandalised by her news? Did they actually encourage her to go? Or did she need time and space to reflect on the momentous happenings in her life (we recall that after Jesus’ birth she pondered on all that had happened).
Whatever we might conclude, the Scriptural link is the figure of the angel Gabriel appearing to both women – announcing the forthcoming births of John to Elizabeth, and Jesus to Mary. Both are amazed at the news of such divine providence in their different lives, and despite this, both accept it.
Mary may have left in haste, but she did not return in a hurry. It would be some two months into her pregnancy before she returned to Nazareth. In Elizabeth she found a kindred spirit. But she found more that. In Elizabeth she found confirmation that her pregnancy was even more special than that of Elizabeth. She was ‘Theotokos’ (bearer of God) as Greek Orthodox theology names her.
As a result, her son’s adult mission was to be just that, God bearer. Do we, in our turn, recognise that we too are called to be bearers of God to others. What a privilege. How far has our mission gone?