The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Look, there he stands behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
"Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over an gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the covert of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely."
Alternative 1st Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18
A hymn of joy to God my Saviour
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp,
with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs.
O sing him a song that is new,
play loudly, with all your skill. (R./)
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
There's a beautiful tone of intimacy and affection in both readings for today. The Song of Songs pours out some of the lovely, lyrical love-poetry written by King Solomon for his young bride from Egypt, describing the overflowing emotions of love between them at the time of their nuptuals. In Luke's account of the Visitation we sense the mutual spiritual friendship bonding Mary with Elizabeth, as they ponder how God has blessed both of them, and through them so many others who would come live life more fully because of John the Baptist and of Jesus.
Sharing faith is not always easy. An evangelical preacher once said, "When I tell people about my experience of joy since becoming a Christian, they often scoff that this Jesus stuff is just a crutch for weak people! Do you know what I think? If Jesus is a crutch, then give me two!" We need to share what we have felt, and it can benefit both ourselves and those with whom we share our spiritual experience.
Mary and Elizabeth felt the saving grace of God flowing through their lives -- and were not afraid to encourage each other by saying so. Many of us were raised on the principle that 'God helps those who help themselves' and that displays of need are out of place in the pursuit of holiness. Maybe we need to learn again what Elizabeth says so clearly: that God is a gracious God, and it is a blessed thing to believe in that graciousness.