The Joy of Elizabeth and Mary

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We are just a few days from the celebration of the birth of Jesus, which fulfilled the promise made by God from the beginning to bring forth from the offspring of Adam a savior who would restore mankind to God’s family, and more specifically the promise made to Abraham that from him would come forth this savior for all mankind.

We see this promise in Genesis, after the Fall. In His great mercy, God curses the serpent, Satan, whose great lie brought death and despair to the human race, and then promises a redeemer who will conquer evil and sin: “I will make you enemies of each other, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring, He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.’ (Gen 3:14)

Following that original disaster, then, that darkest moment of human history, when our first parents chose sin above God, it is revealed that God still took pity on his fallen children. He promised a redeemer who would crush the Head of the Evil One and enable us all to return to communion with Him and the destiny God intended for us from the beginning.

Moreover, it’s not by chance that the promise includes the woman who fully shares the enmity of her offspring against the Evil One. She will also have her triumph over the Evil One who deceived her. She would still be the mother of all the living. But thanks to God’s merciful promise, there is renewed hope that through her offspring, woman would also be involved in the re-generation of a race doomed to suffering and death.

So the Lord promises that “woman,” that is, a representative of all women, would have her role in the restoration of the race, not this woman who sinned, but one of her descendants, the new Eve, who would be sinless and who would in fact triumph over Satan, sin, and death, through the Savior to whom she would give birth.

Indeed, for countless centuries, there has been deadly enmity between the descendants of that first man and woman and the offspring of Satan, both his angelic and human followers. Then the time finally came for the ancient promise to be fulfilled through a new woman and through her blessed offspring, He who was and is the hope of all ages.

The meeting of Elizabeth and Mary is the blessed moment chosen by God to proclaim that the ancient promise is being fulfilled, that the long wait for the triumph over Satan, sin, and death was at hand: The mother of His herald, Elizabeth speaks for the child in her womb,Blessed is the fruit of your womb. . .who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me.”

"Visitación de María a Isabel" by Angiolo D'Andrea, c. 1940
“Visitación de María a Isabel” by Angiolo D’Andrea, c. 1940

For generations, women had carried the fruit of their wombs with the knowledge that the child to whom they would give birth and nourish, would sadly one day die. For all the children they bore would, like all flesh, be subject to the law of suffering and death. But there was also the ancient promise that sustained the women of faith, the promise that death was not the last word.

Indeed, among the children of Abraham, this promise was the very substance of their hope, that one day a child would be born who would restore for Israel and all mankind the destiny for which man was created in the beginning: endless life not death, happiness not suffering. They even came to know by a new revelation that this savior would come from the tribe of Juda, a descendant of David: “From you [Bethlehem-Ephrathah] shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler of Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient times.”

But they also learned that this promise would be fulfilled only with the cooperation of a mother, a new Eve, who would bring into the world the medicine of immortality. The Book of Kings mentions the special role of the Queen-Mother of the kings descended from David, indicating a linkage between the Davidic dynasty (the Messianic dynasty) and the promise made in Genesis concerning the woman and her offspring who would be the conqueror of Satan. This will Woman share in the victory of her son over death.

How beautiful, then, the meeting of these two holy women, both with child: one carrying the greatest man born of flesh, the other carrying the very Life of the World – the one whose “origin is of old,” from “ancient times.” How fitting, then, that the Messiah’s arrival was first celebrated by two women, one mother of the new Elijah, the other the Mother of God. Salvation will not come through a battle of armies led, but through the blessed generosity of bearing life, the role of the woman, and the generosity of surrendering that same life for God’s purposes.

Since then, every woman who shares the faith of Elizabeth and Mary can give birth in heavenly joy, a joy based that now every child has a well founded hope of eternal life, thanks to the fruit of Mary’s womb.

Since that day, we can all have the same joyful experience of the Lord’s coming, recalling how He sanctified us in the womb of Holy Mother Church, just as John “leaped for joy” in Elizabeth’s womb, simply by the presence of God in Mary’s womb.

Every time we approach the altar, our faith, like Mary’s or Elizabeth’s, should fill us with that unique joy and humility, “But who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Then truly will the grace of her blessed offspring stir in our souls and more deeply transform us into his brothers and sisters, creatures no longer destined for death, but for eternal life and a joy that He assures us cannot be taken away.


Fr. Mark A. Pilon (1943-2018) was a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, VA. He received a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Santa Croce University in Rome. He was a former Chair of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary's Seminary, and a retired and visiting professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He writes regularly at