The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

From “Divine Intimacy” 

La Visitación (The Visitation), Maestro de Perea, ca 1500

“And Mary, rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Judah” – (Luke 1:39-47).

Mary, in the exquisite delicacy of her charity, has such a profound sense of the needs of others, that as soon as she hears of them, she acts spontaneously and decisively to bring help. Having learned from the Angel Gabriel that her cousin was about to become a mother, she goes immediately to offer her humble services.

If we consider the difficulty of travelling in those days, when the poor, such as Mary, had to go on foot over difficult roads, or at best, by means of some rude conveyance, and also the fact that Mary remained three months with Elizabeth, we can readily understand that she had to face many hardships in performing this act of charity. However, she was in no way disturbed: charity urged her, making her wholly forgetful of herself, for as St. Paul says: “Charity seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). How many times, perhaps, have you omitted an act of kindness, not to spare yourself a hard journey, but only to avoid a little trouble. Think how uncharitable you are and how slow to help others. Look at Mary, and see how much you can learn from her!

Charity makes Mary forget not only her hardships but also her own dignity, which was greater than that given to any other creature. Elizabeth is advanced in years, but Mary is the Mother of God; Elizabeth is about to give birth to a man, but Mary will give birth to the Son of God. Nevertheless, before her cousin as before the Angel, Mary continues to look upon herself as the humble handmaid of the Lord, and nothing more. Precisely because she considers herself a handmaid, she comports herself as such, even in respect to her neighbour. In your case, perhaps, although you know how to humble yourself before God and recognise your lack of perfection in the secrecy of your heart, it displeases you to appear imperfect before your neighbour, and you quickly resent being treated as such. Are you not anxious to have your dignity, education, and ability recognised, as well as the more or less honourable offices or charges which have been entrusted to you? Your dignity is a mere nothing, and yet you are so jealous of it. Mary’s dignity approaches the infinite, yet she considers herself and behaves as if she were the least of all creatures.

O Mary, how great is your humility when you hasten to serve others! If it is true that he who humbles himself will be exalted, who will be more exalted than you who have humbled yourself so much?
“When Elizabeth caught sight of you she was astonished and exclaimed: ‘Whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?’ But I am still more astonished to see that you, as well as your Son, came not to be served, but to serve…. It was for this purpose that you went to Elizabeth, you the Queen, to the servant, the Mother of God to the mother of the Precursor, you who would give birth to the Son of God, to her who would bring forth a mere man.
“But your profound humility in no way lessened your magnanimity; the greatness of your soul was not opposed to your humility. You, so small in your own eyes, were so magnanimous in your faith, in your hope in the Most High, that you never doubted His promises, and firmly believed that you would become the Mother of the Son of God.
“Humility did not make you fainthearted; magnanimity did not make you proud, but these two virtues were perfectly combined in you!
“O Mary, you cannot give me a share in your great privileges as Mother of God; these belong to you alone! But you want me to share in your virtues, giving me examples of them in yourself. If, then, sincere humility, magnanimous faith, and delicate, sympathetic charity are lacking in me, how can I excuse myself? O Mary, O Mother of mercy, you who are full of grace, nourish us, your poor little ones, with your virtues!
” (cf. St. Bernard).

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3 Responses to The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

  1. GC says:

    It was Our Lady’s arduous visit to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, that was the occasion of Mary’s uttering her great Magnificat, my soul magnifies the Lord, according to the Gospel reading from St Luke at Mass today.

    Just as well, as without it they would have had to find some other text to put into Vespers, just after the psalm-singing, every single day of every single year for the last couple of millenia or so – not to mention the Anglicans’ very much more recent evensong (or ‘evensnog’ as I once saw it written in a pew sheet), a sort of abbreviated combination of the Catholic evening offices of Vespers and Compline.

    Many a composer down the long ages would have been much the poorer for material as well.

    In Luke’s Gospel the meeting of the two cousins was, if anything, a great occasion for the Holy Spirit. Both of them were inspired to prophesy; Our Lady, especially, on a grand scale, even on what could be considered matters in the social or political realm. She also prophesied that all ages would call her blessed. That has proven very true, but not among protestants evidently.

    Our Lady’s song, encapsulating so much of Jewish tradition, is sometimes called the last canticle of the Old Testament and the first of the New Testament, all emanating from the soul of a two-month-pregnant young Jewish woman.

    A popular Anglican Magnificat, using Cranmer’s version of Our Lady’s canticle in his Book of Common Prayer- so we don’t here have to translate from the Latin or Greek- Stanford in C, often sung at their evensnog. Stanford was more a less a contemporary of Gilbert & Sullivan.

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