Today, as is my custom, I was praying through my prayer app and one of my subscriptions is to the collect of the day from the Anglican Church. It was titled “The visit of the blessed virgin Mary to Elizabeth”, telling of the Bible story that I mentioned in my last post.
It was an amazing moment as I realized that the litugical Church calendar celebrates this day on May 31st. Mary’s birthday!! The very story that was the catalyst for us naming her “Mary Elizabeth” is celebrated all over the world on Mary’s birthday.
I did the spiritual thing and googled this to make sure it was not “fake news” and sure enough May 31st has been Mary Elizabeth’s day for a very long time.
In the Biblical narrative Mary responds with what is known as Mary’s song or the Magnificat, a part of every Sunday service that I attended while I was a choirboy at Saint Peter’s Church in Brighton.
“And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
So as I think and contemplate about Mary Elizabeth Yoshiko Somers-Harris who has reached the grand old age of 23 on this auspicious occasion, I am awed as I recall how, not knowing anything yet in faith and obedience, Rhonda and I accepted this child of Joy into our family. Joy is fully a part of her Japanese name 喜子 and was at the centre of the Bible narrative that led to us calling her “Mary Elizabeth”.
However, due to her life experiences with POTS, which is an ongoing battle, Mary’s life has not been a daily experience of Joy. Somehow though in the midst of her sufferings Mary seems to be able to exude and bring Joy to almost everyone she meets. Her life experiences and hidden illness have given her a heart of deep compassion which results in unceasing efforts to reach out to and stand up for the marginalized and oppressed.
Both of these are deeply entrenched in the story of Mary and Elizabeth from the Bible narrative. In Church history it was first observed by the Franciscians from before 1263 and soon its observance spread throughout the entire Church. The Franciscian order was known for reaching out to the poor and oppressed people of the world.
Then in the song of Mary we read: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” So Mary’s life has in many ways encompassed both the Joy and the suffering that is discovered in the full story of her birthday.
Happy Birthday, Mary Elizabrth Yoshiko.
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
With all our other children, Rhonda and I had already decided on their names before their arrival. However, with Mary the decision was still out, partly because Mary was the name of her grandmother, Rhonda’s mother, and Rhonda had some hesitation about calling our little girl by that name.
It was the above story from the Bible that brought the realization that Mary was to be her name. As with all our children part of the process of choosing a name involved asking God, “What will the character of this child be?”
With David we felt “Peace”
With Jonathan “Friend”
With Sarah “Love”
For Mary it was “Joy”
The passage from the Bible above tells of the time that Mary, while pregnant with Jesus, went to visit Elizabeth and, upon entering the house, Elizabeth’s baby, who was to be John the Baptist, leaped for joy in the womb of his mother.
This story was so impactful that our baby girl was named Mary Elizabeth in English and Yoshiko in Japanese which means child of joy.
That was 23 years ago. Look for my next post for what Paul Harvey would call, “the rest of the story”.