One of the most striking things about this scene, this pivotal moment in scripture, is that it is a scene between women. It is a moment not intended primarily for the male gaze. It is a rare example of women’s encounter with God and with one another, neither mediated through nor set in comparison with the experience of men. It is one of the very few episodes in the biblical narrative which would pass the Bechdel Test.
It is perhaps hard for us to understand the extent to which, until really very recently, women’s spiritual experience was dismissed as inferior and unreliable while men’s understanding of God (and only men’s) was seen as normative and authoritative. Or perhaps it is not so hard – perhaps we have not really moved as far as we might hope.
In the Visitation, God is doing an extraordinary thing. God places into the mouths of two women – two of the most unlikely women, at that – the words which announce God’s own presence in the world. At this turning point in the history of the universe, God overturns the unquestioned normativity of male experience. It is one of the ways in which God announces the great overturning of assumptions and prejudices which will characterise Jesus’ ministry and herald the coming of the Kingdom.
#adventbookclub runs from 1st December until Epiphany. This year we are using “The Art of Advent” by Jane Williams, and raising some money for Mercy UK, a mental health charity over at the JustGiving page here. Search #adventbookclub on Twitter or Facebook to join in the conversation.