Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies....



Halfway between the Annunciation and the Birth of John the Baptist we celebrate the Visitation. Or, in plain, non-Catholic English, more-or-less midway between March 25 and June 24, we celebrate Mary's surprise visit to her cousin Elizabeth.

The Church offers for our reflection on this day a passage from the Prophet Zephaniah, who lived in a dark time and prophesied doom:
Zephaniah’s prophecy of judgment on Judah and Jerusalem emphasizes, perhaps more than any other prophecy, the devastation and death that divine judgment will bring. Described as the day of the Lord, the day of judgment is pictured as a time of darkness, of anguish and distress, of destruction and plunder of cities, and of threat to all life, human and animal alike. The major sins motivating this judgment, in Zephaniah’s view, are Judah’s worship of other deities (1:49) and its unjust and abusive leadership (3:14). (copied wholesale from the USCBB website.)
But in today's citation, the prophet offers a hopeful note. Using an ancient name of the Holy City, he calls out to Daughter Zion, "the Lord has removed the judgment against you."

Several hundred years later, the Jewish people had experience much turmoil; changes which would have shattered any other people. But still they kept faith. 

At the appointed hour, Mary went to visit her older cousin in Jerusalem. In Elizabeth's pregnancy and Mary's visitation we see the prophecy fulfilled: The LORD has turned away your enemies....

In the Joyful Spirit that fills the women, we recognize God's merciful presence in the troubled, holy city. God the Holy Spirit has visited his people. Reading the Gospel of Saint Luke we hear that expression several times:
  • Luke 1: 68: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people
  • Luke 1.78-79: -- because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
  • Luke 7: 16 --Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.
  • Luke 19: 44: ...they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.

The Gospel of Luke celebrates the Visitation of God the Son, beginning at Galilee and ending in Jerusalem. And with many references it anticipates the Visitation of The Holy Spirit, who will send, lead and guide the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. 

Recently the Church celebrated the 100th anniversary of Mary's appearances at Fatima. The Feast of the Visitation reminds us that these remarkable appearances of Mary throughout our history -- but especially during critical times -- began there in Jerusalem when Mary visited Elizabeth and God visited his people. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.