During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
There’s a lot of powerful imagery in the Visitation, a lot of ways in which this mystery can illuminate our own experiences and needs. It’s another mystery about the beauty and meaning of unborn children. It’s a mystery which I often pray when I am struggling to see Christ in another person, so that I can greet that person with (some ramshackle semblance of) John’s joy and welcome.
But most often, this mystery speaks to me as a mystery of friendship. And often when I’m praying it I’m thinking of friends I’ve failed, and friends I’ve lost. Those failures on my part happened for a lot of reasons, from selfishness to an inability to manage religious differences, but as with many of the things I’ve done (good and bad) as an adult, alcohol definitely played a role in a lot of these stories. So here, have one of the most beautiful, wrenching songs I know, about a liquor-soaked friendship and its end:
Whoa there, isn’t this supposed to be a joyful mystery? Okay people. I’ll give you another. This is one of those memories which has become so blurred with overhandling that I can’t entirely trust it, so if you saw a scene like this in like “Punky Brewster” or something, just assume it happened there and not in my real life. But I have this possibly-memory of sitting in my elementary-school cafeteria and all of us, all the kids, joining in singing this:
(I assume it was this astonishingly 1986 version and not the 1972 original. I would’ve been eightish.)
Wikipedia, I know, but: “Withers’ childhood in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia,was the inspiration for ‘Lean on Me’, which he wrote after he had moved to Los Angeles and found himself missing the strong community ethic of his hometown.”