Monday, June 1, 2009

The Feast of the Visitation

In the church calendar, June 1 is actually the feast of Justin Martyr, but since yesterday was Pentecost, which is not budge-able in any way, we missed the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is a big feast of its own and gets to bump ol' Justin, there.

I'm particularly moved by this feast of the Visitation, when the unexpectedly pregnant Mary visits the unexpectedly pregnant Elizabeth, in conjunction with yesterday's tragedy of the death of Dr. Tiller, and the further unearthing of all the other tragedies of parents choosing a late-term abortion rather than having (as best they can understand it) their children suffer.

As I read these stories from parents who traveled to Kansas after deciding to end a much-wanted pregnancy, I was reminded of a time when I was doing a hospital chaplaincy and had a late-night call to sit with some young parents who had to decide whether or not to take their infant son off of life support.

These were devout Evangelical Christians who had been told by friends and family of good will that God would provide a miracle and that their faithful prayers would be answered. The young father kept consoling the young mother, telling her "You did everything right; you did everything you could," as he himself cried so hard that the tears dropped onto his shirt, making little dark dots.

And it has made me think how much that is of vast importance in people's lives takes place, not secretly, but privately; how little we know of other people's lives and choices. Pregnancy seems a good metaphor for this because there's so much going on that cannot be seen. But for those who are encountering the past couple of days' events, both in the news and in the church calendar, pregnancy in all its mystery and complications is no metaphor.

A day later, I find myself angrier about this murder than I expected because with this murder, all of these painful stories of parents taking their beloved child off of the life support of their own bodies have begun to emerge. Mary, I think, would understand that suffering.

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly." Challenging words from Romans in the readings for today. That ain't no metaphor neither.

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