Luke 1:39-56 - Masterpiece of Happiness ♪♫♬
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."
And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever."
Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
A first dimension of happiness is, of course, the absence of sorrows. If you imagine that all your current problems would simply disappear, it would certainly aid to your happiness. Moreover, another important element for a person’s happiness is the satisfaction of a person’s needs and desires. In fact, when we are happy, we experience more than a carefree interior; we usually rejoice in the possession of some good, we delight in the fulfillment of some inner need or void. If we go even deeper though, happiness consists of more than the absence of problems and the satisfaction of our needs. These two elements are directed inward, they create a contentment that settles us, puts us at ease with ourselves. But there seems to be another dimension to happiness, one that is directed outwards; that what makes us exclaim with joy, run or jump, smile and lift up our hearts. Happiness is effusive and therefore difficult to keep to ourselves; it only comes to fruition when we can share it. Thus, an important dimension of happiness is the encounter - we could say: the communion with someone else.
Hence, happiness is deeply relational and we cannot be truly happy while lonely. In fact, the deepest source of our happiness is not found inside of us; there is no spring in our soul to still its thirst. We must find fresh water in someone else. The Gospel which accompanies us from today till Sunday (!) is a celebration of that deepest kind of happiness. All figures - Mary, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, and Jesus - chime in to a melody of effusive joy because they encounter happiness in each other: John perceives Jesus’ presence and jumps in the womb; Elizabeth perceives John’s joy and shares it with Mary; Mary hears of Elizabeth's experience and sings praise; and today the liturgy listens to and repeats her song in joyful expectation of the Savior.
How wonderful! What a choir of joy during the days leading up to Christmas! And how wholesome the joy is, considering the first cause, the first spring of the freshwater of grace: God has visited His people by taking Flesh in Mary’s womb. Salvation is at hand. His presence triggers this chain of happiness.
It is funny how incapable we often are of expressing our happiness with words. In this sense, I am in awe at Mary’s accomplished exclamation: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” For how awe-some it is to make out God's hand in our lives and praise Him for it! This is precisely the kind of happiness which can leave you without words. Mary sang. She sang the ancient praise of Hannah (cf, 1 Samuel 2:1–10), adapting it to her occasion of joy and grace. This is the Magnificat. Her song, the most beautiful prayer ever, lauds God and retraces His handwriting in history and His action in her life.
Behold happiness: Mary carries God under her heart. What shady problems could possibly withstand the beaming light of that presence? What needs of her soul could possibly be unattended? Moreover, how could she ever feel lonely in that condition of deepest communion? No wonder that her joy is so effusive and that her lips pronounce the Magnificat, this masterpiece of happiness.
In each Eucharistic communion we are given a very similar cause for happiness: we receive Jesus in our hearts, He attends to our problems and is willing to still our deepest thirsts. Communion is happiness. Sing Mary's praise when you receive Our Lord in your heart. Let your spirit rejoice in God your Savior.
Jesus wanted to dwell in Mary’s womb and later wanted to dwell in His Church. Therefore, the celebration of happiness that took place at Elizabeth’s doorsteps is repeated at the doorsteps to heaven - in each Eucaristic Celebration of the Church. Thus, we too can participate in this feast of joy and form part of the perpetual chain of effusive happiness which was triggered by Jesus’ Incarnation and Salvation.