My Hero, Elizabeth

Every Sunday, at the 9:30 a.m. Family Service, we have a procession with cross and candles and singing. We pray, we hear a story from the Bible and comment on it, we offer God’s peace to one another, and we share the bread and wine of Christ’s presence. Sound familiar? We follow the exact order of the Holy Eucharist as at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and 5 p.m., but we don’t sit in pews, and we do feel free to get up and move around as our little feet carry us. We don’t read a pre-written list of prayers; we offer the things that are on our hearts at the moment. Thus, we offer lots of thanksgivings for unicorns and cupcakes, and make many petitions for the joints of grandparents! We hear only one Bible story each week, to concentrate the lesson.

This summer we are hearing about the forgotten heroes of the Bible—the ones whose stories are notable examples of strength and faithfulness, but whose names are less familiar. On July 29, we will focus on my hero, Elizabeth. Read all about her here. Today is a preview because in the church, May 31 is the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—an entire day devoted to the relationship between the mother of Jesus and her older cousin.

Elizabeth is known by three of her relationships:  she was the wife of Zechariah, a priest in their local synagogue. She was mother of John the Baptist:  when we first meet her, she has just learned that she is not barren as she has thought for decades, but pregnant. Elizabeth was Mary’s “cousin”—an older relative, living in another village—so the perfect person for Mary to visit when she finds herself pregnant and unmarried.

Have you ever noticed how much we are defined by our relationships? I am daughter of, wife of, mother of. While I am immensely proud of my own accomplishments, my relationships remind me how very much I am loved and how very much loving I get to do in the world. The older I get, the more I know that loving is my favorite work.

Elizabeth’s relationships gave her a voice that boosted the voiceless. When she finally becomes pregnant, an angel tells her husband about it. He doesn’t believe it, so the angel strikes him mute. Zechariah doesn’t get a voice again until after the baby is born. When Elizabeth speaks up and explains how the angel had given him the name of John, Zechariah mutely affirms Elizabeth’s story. That is, Elizabeth’s relationship gives Zechariah his voice.

When Mary visits her, she has been silent ever since the angel told her that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Elizabeth sees her, and recognizes her, (“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” Luke 1:42b.) It is only then that Mary finds her voice, and she sings a whole song of praise to God. More, Elizabeth’s greeting is the second line of the “Hail Mary”—she literally gives voice to millions of faithful praying people every day!

The church calls today “the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  But I think of it as the Visitation to Elizabeth, an old lady with a good strong voice and a lot of loving relationships. She’s my hero.


The Rev. Nancy Webb Stroud
Priest Associate

Published May 30, 2024

Artwork: Detail of the Visitation from “Scenes from the Life of Saint John the Baptist”
Francesco Granacci (Francesco di Andrea di Marco), Italian, ca. 1506–7
Public Domain, courtesy of The Met