What unites us is not our age; rather, it is the call. In the Gospel story, the old Elizabeth and the young Miriam are both filled, pregnant, of the Spirit of God. This is a high language for low people.
The New begins when the Old has become deaf: the priest Zechariah.
A figure emerges as the hinge between the Old and the New. This figure is sterile and too old to bear a child.
Elizabeth, the nonfertile, becomes the first prophetess of the New, and the mother of the one who will prepare the way of Jesus and ours, as well. Elizabeth is a figure that looms on the horizon. She is an icon of hope: the old woman, invisible, taken for granted — apparently, back then and now, quite ignored by the agonizing patriarchy.
Without her, we wouldn’t have the New. Isn’t it like this in our religious communities? Without our foundresses and those with them and after them preparing the way, we wouldn’t have the now.
Is the older one of our story the one who empowers the young, also filled with the mystery of God?
Their embrace is a connection of equals that both experience as a dance in their wombs. It is not the age; rather, what both, old and young, gestate that impels us: to embrace with care the elderly, to challenge the younger to be creative, committed, prophetic.
Religious life fills us up when listening attentively, with the capacity to be prophetesses: “to birth a new understanding of the reign of God.”
In our congregation, each one of us is self-sufficient. We have no properties, no superiors. There is a profound prophetic sense of mutual empowerment. The concept of old-young is understood as excitement for the implementation suggested by the Second Vatican Council of the collegial model in communities and in the church. For us, mutual empowerment is a fact. The older members “dance of joy” at the younger, and there is mutuality, a deep respect for the others’ wisdom and gifts.
If I am part of this panel, it is because my sisters (even though my English is not polished — it is the third language for me!) challenged me: They see the stars in my eyes when writing about what is in my womb. I call it “empowerment.”
Recently, I visited a kind of Elizabeth or Miriam, or both: a married woman in her 40s, full of the Ruah. She brings to our community the passion and readiness of those who listen. Married? Yes, like “them.” In our embrace, our children leaped in us: We have so much to tell her children’s generation.
Magda Bennásar Oliver, sfcc