Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary


And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

Nine months before the birth of Jesus, March 25, we celebrate the Annunciation, when Mary consented to be the Mother of God. At that time the Angel Gabriel told her that “Your kinswoman Elizabeth is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible for God.” So that puts the birth of John the Baptist six months ahead of Jesus’, June 24. Between the two events, Saint Luke tells us, Mary went to visit Elizabeth, and May 31 is a good time to do that.
The traditional explanation for her visit has been that she went to assist her kinswoman. Since she would certainly not doubt the Angel’s word, she did not go to verify God’s word to her. But I think that misses the point. She went to see the wonderful sign. If someone says, “Come see the beautiful sunset!” I’m not going to say, “It’s beautiful, I’m sure, but I’ll take your word for it.” If I am at all courteous, free, generous and naturally attracted to beauty, I’ll get up see it. Mary surely had a desire to see the wonderful sign of which the Angel spoke.
This particular passage is the high point of Saint Luke’s infancy narrative and every word, phrase and sentence is rich with meaning. Innumerable homilies and sermons have addressed it; thousands if not millions of books draw inspiration from it. A merely historical reading of the text insults its pregnant mystery.
Mary’s visit to Elizabeth is her first apparition. She will appear again in Acts of the Apostles, John and Revelation. She has appeared in private revelation many times in many parts of the world. I am sure those who see her have often exclaimed, “How does this happen to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” Whether she appears in Knock Ireland, Lourdes France, Fatima Portugal, or Medjugore Yugoslavia she is greeted with wonder.
Even more often she appears in our private meditations as we read the scriptures, intone the Angelus and recite the rosary.
If the Angel Gabriel is the first angelic evangelist, Mary is the first human evangelist, especially because she trusted that the Lord’s word to her would be fulfilled. As she enters Elizabeth’s house she carries the undivided word of God in her mind and heart and womb. She is filled with God.
Elizabeth’s ecstatic greeting of Mary must be our own. We are amazed, delighted and grateful for her coming. Something mysterious and wonderful leaps within us. Were not our hearts burning within us as she greeted us?
We are fascinated by Mary because she is Jesus’ mother. if there is any doubt about his humanity, she is there to tell us, “I bore him in my womb and nursed him at my breast.”
In 1998 I arrived as pastor of an African-American Catholic church in Louisiana. I was in many ways The Lone Ranger, without family or friends. Or perhaps I was Melchizedek :
Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest for ever. (Hebrews 7: 3)
The Catholic congregation greeted me warmly but I was a stranger to them – until my mother arrived. Her friendly presence, her pride in her son, her foolish attempts to say she was not prejudiced – all made me somewhat more human to my people there. She seemed to open doors of friendliness in the Church that I could never find.
Mary introduces us to Jesus, and we never quite know how humanly beautiful he is until we meet her.

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