"And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
"We need to wait together
to keep each other at home spiritually,
so that when the word comes
it can become flesh in us."
The Gospel story from Luke reminds us that for us to live into God’s promise we must live in a community of people who can affirm, deepen, or strengthen our faith. This is why Miryam traveled so far and risked so much to be with her cousin Elizabeth. The peasant girl Miryam traveled to the borderlands of Palestine, Roman occupied territory complete with checkpoints and patrols, surveillance and ethnic profiling to share this special time of waiting, to offer what Maren Tirabassi calls “improbable blessings” with her cousin Elizabeth. The women spend three to four months eating, gossiping, and singing blessed bes to each other. Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy at age 90 helped Miryam accept her own miraculous birth story for they each needed to talk about how to handle God’s intention for them through this new life. They showered blessings on each other and in response the babies leapt with joy in their wombs.
Their holy conversation reminds us that peacemaking begins by talking about the God of peace and what the God of peace is doing in our lives, even in our wombs. It reminds us that in order to fulfill God’s plan for heaven on earth, the Beloved Community, we need the community of others, spaces to grow and develop. We need the encouragement, hand holding, and sometimes the keening of other kindred spirits to maintain steadfast to our dreams of peace and justice.
Miryam, the mother of Jesus, full of grace, the unwed mother, the political refugee, the homeless one, the friend, the prophet, invites us to find our Elizabeth so we can bless one another into creating a new world order based on a disdain for power that diminishes or destroys, and a reverence for a new earth based on divestment of wealth and status and a sharing of resources.
Blessing one another into creating a new world order is what some Palestinian and Israeli women are doing. In 2010 and 2011 the Israeli women’s group Lo Metsayat, “We Do Not Obey”, organized outings to the Jaffa beach with Palestinian women from south Hebron. This summer beach trip would not be so revolutionary if it were not for the fact that Palestinian women are not allowed to enter Israel without a permit. In order for the women to spend time together they had to break the Law of Entry into Israel. Writer and founder Ilana Hamerman said, “Our actions symbolize civil disobedience to evil, illegitimate dangerous laws.”
In 2012, these same women began to hold picnics in a Jerusalem park; again challenging the law that forbids Palestinians from entering into Israel---this time Jerusalem without a permit. The women picnic together with their children, with the hope that the next generation might be prepared one day to live in a society beyond violence and war.
And for the second year in a row on International Women’s Day more than 400 Palestinian women gathered with Israeli and international activists in the village of Beit Ommar for a woman’s organizing of popular resistance to the occupation called “Practicing Civil DisObedience.” They spent the day listening to speakers about strategies and tactics, about a vision for a occupation free future.
These brave Israeli and Palestinian women, these mothers of redemption, are refusing to be enemies and are joining their collective feminine power to challenge the apartheid system and to live freely even now. They have no allusion that they come together as equals or that there can be anything normal about their relationship until the occupation ends. However as Ilana said during this year's historic gathering, "In the midst of an ugly reality, we have created a spot of clear and exquisite reality, a unique spot of women’s political opposition, humane and moral, against an evil Israeli military rule over millions of Palestinians… We say No to death and Yes to life together. We shall break through the checkpoints and barriers within us and without. We are not afraid and we shall not give in.”
Prayer (adapted from Maren Tirabassi)
God from whom all blessings flow,
incarnate us to be your improbable gift of blessing to each other,
that we might bring to completion your promise
of radical love to the whole world.
Make our presence, a coming of your peace
so that broken hearts and societies can begin healing
that joy and justice may be shared.
I close with this image of the pregnant virgin from the Bethlehem wall near the car checkpoint. The icon faces the entrance to the monastery. It is where the Christian faithful go to pray on Thursday or Friday afternoons. I took this picture through barbed wire for effect. The Virgin, Mary, is and has always been in danger. Her words, her invitation for us to become instruments of peace and truth telling is radical. God has brought down the powerful and has lifted up the lowly. God has and will continue to do so but needs us to be those vessels so the Word can become flesh in us.