Based on the biblical story of the Virgin Mary’s visit to St. Elizabeth.
My cousin Hannah’s daughter; how I wished she were my own!
How I loved to hear her lessons, bring her presents, pinch her cheek
When I heard of her betrothal, I was just too proud to speak
But my womb was going dry even as she clutched my knee
Her babble made me hear the child I knew would never be
No little boy to serve the Lord and carry on our name
No little girl to cheer my days and take away my shame.
Six months ago my Zach came home talking with his hands
And he scribbled out a message that nobody understands
He wrote a name I’ve never heard, and promises strange
Of angels and of prophets, and a child in my old age
And he had me read of Sarah, but I laughed to read the lines
He’s no Father Abraham, we live in modern times
I could hear the village whisper and mock as I passed through
I looked at my old body, and I knew it wasn’t true.
But as soon as I heard Mary call my name across the room
I felt a baby quicken and leap within my womb
And I cried, “Blessed, blessed are you and your son
How am I so blessed to see my Lord’s mother come?
Benedictus fructus ventris tui
Bene, benedicta tu...”
Summer days are stretching and my day is getting near
The goat is giving so much milk, our figs so plump this year
And I, who was forgotten, grey and barren, nearly dead
I knit and stitch and spin and weave for my sweet baby’s bed
And I can’t help but think Mary’s part of this somehow
Where there was nothing, since she came, there’s hope and movement now
And I can’t help but wonder where her own dear child will lie
I know my son’s the prophet; I’ve a hunch who’s the Most High.
I wrote this when I was living at L'Arche Cape Breton and our house was leading an Advent service on the text of Luke 1:5-25, 39-45. Elizabeth was an elderly relative of the Virgin Mary, and the mother of John the Baptist. The Latin phrases in the bridge are Elizabeths' words which became part of the Ave Maria ("Blessed art thou and blessed is the fruit of thy womb"). The second verse refers to the account in Genesis of Sarah and Abraham having a miraculous pregnancy in Sarah’s old age.
The painting is by Leonardo Da Vinci (1499) and depicts Mary, Jesus, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist.