Feast of the Visitation
Today we celebrate the memory of Our Lady going to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was three months pregnant with John the Baptist. There is a common mistranslation from Luke's Greek in this passage: "the child in my womb leapt for joy." It should really be translated as "the child in my womb danced a dance of joy," or as we would say in Ireland, "the child danced a gig!" Dancing in the Lord, as David did when he brought the Ark back to Jerusalem, is one of the purest forms of prayer. It is when the body and soul unite in giving praise to God.
In this passage we also have that wonderful prayer of Mary, the Magnificat. We say it every day at evening prayer and yet it still delights our heart every time we really think of what it means. God asked a lowly maid to become mother of His Son. And she said "Yes." What a wonderful gift Our Lady gave to us. Had she refused we would not have been saved. The Magnificat is the joyful song of the greatest contemplative that ever lived. Jesus is reported to have said to one of the great mystics, "Mary had more virtue than all the people who ever lived put together." She was pure of heart in the fullest sense of the word. She was so open to God that when she was asked to obey God her obedience was so humble that the Word of God could become alive in her!
Whether Elizabeth fully appreciated the words she uttered under inspiration we are not told, but they include in their meaning the divinity of the Child. We are reminded of our Lord’s challenge to his audience when he asked them what David must have meant when he wrote, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand till I put your enemies under your feet” — but how could he be his Lord, if he was his son? Mary is the Queen-Mother, the “mother of my Lord,” but this title embraced a dimension far transcending the letter of the Messianic prophecies. It encapsulates the reality formally defined at the Council of Ephesus a few centuries later, that Mary is none other than the Mother of God because her son Jesus Christ is God the Son made man. At the arrival of the virgin Mary at the house of Elizabeth, heaven itself erupts and the Holy Spirit moves the saintly Elizabeth to speak in God’s name. How great is the young woman before her! When the Angel Gabriel appeared in the presence of Mary, he addressed her as one so highly favoured — which we translate as “full of grace”. The Lord was with her, he said to Mary. Here in our scene today, Elizabeth counts herself as “so favoured” because she has been honoured with a visit from the “mother of my Lord.” Mary was “highly favoured” — for the Lord was with her. Elizabeth is “so favoured” because she has Mary with her, Mary who brings the “Lord” with her. She is showing forth the honour to be accorded to the Queen-Mother by all who accept divine Revelation. Ever since the early centuries, and especially since the Council of Ephesus, high honours have been accorded to Mary by Christ’s faithful, and it was a new thing in the life of the Church when in the sixteenth century this was denied of the Virgin. But no. Under divine inspiration, Elizabeth counts herself as most favoured at having received a visit from her who is blessed among women, her who is the mother of the Lord, her who believed — her who believed that what the Lord had promised would be fulfilled. Elizabeth, acting as the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit, pronounces Mary worthy of the highest recognition. She has the dignity of being mother of our Messiah and Lord, and of being our model of faith in God and his promises.
The Gospel scene of the Visitation of Mary to her kinswoman Elizabeth involves a revelation about Jesus Christ, and, consequently, his holy mother. The practical side of this is that we ought seek to have Mary the mother of our Lord visit us, indeed, that she stay with us. Let our minds pass from this scene to that other scene of years later. Christ gazes from the Cross and says to his mother, There is your son. Then he says to the beloved disciple, There is your mother. Mary is mother of the Son of God made man, and is our mother too. Holy Mary, mother of God! Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.