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Forging the Path

by Catherine Malotky

Soon there will be a new one in my life, so small that my arms can cradle its tiny body, one whose eyes have never seen dark hair on my head or the baby her/his mother once was.

What will it feel like to be called “Oma”? Is this how it was for my mother 30 years ago when I told her of the grandmother she would become? What joy!

When Jesus’ mother, Mary, learned she was pregnant, did she visit her own mother to tell her the news? We do not know. Perhaps the news was too fraught for Mary, betrothed but not yet married. Perhaps she could not tell her mother, at least not yet. We do not know.

The story does tell us that Mary sought out her relative, a generation ahead of her, and also pregnant in complicated circumstances. Elizabeth was too old to be pregnant, but there she was, far enough along to feel her son leap in her womb. Together, Mary and Elizabeth gave witness to the miracle within their bodies and the hope and faith they had for the future their sons would shape. The generational difference evaporated. They were first-time mothers, and Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months before she returned home.

The news of a grandchild is life changing. This little one will be the first of the next generation, and I, necessarily, will move deeper into the generational history of the DNA I carry. It means my mother will be a greatgrandmother, and her mother, now gone, would have been great-great. But this lineage is not the only one that claims this child. Ancestors fan out like spokes in a great wheel of life, building a web of DNA and life stories into which this baby is born. Ruth and Anna and Anne and Sigrid. Gertrude and Minnie and Augusta. Mabel and Mathea and Maria. How many more?

What is the miracle here? What do the generations offer to each other?

The Rev. Catherine Malotky, an ELCA pastor, serves at Luther Seminary as a philanthropic adviser. She has served as a parish pastor, editor, teacher, and retreat leader.

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