A reflection on Feast of the Visitation of Mary
First reading: Luke 1:39-56
Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has repealed your sentence; he has driven your enemies away. The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear.
When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem: Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp. The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival.
Gospel: John 17:20-26
Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
And Mary said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors – of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.
Mary’s spirit carried by a lively, invincible faith and divine wisdom to her cousin Elizabeth
Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth is special because we see Mary’s principal virtues even as Christ is formed in her womb. The Holy Spirit comes upon her and through the words of the Archangel Gabriel at the annunciation, Mary receives her Father’s invitation to bear His Son for the salvation of the whole world.
‘Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah.’ Mary was told of a sign at the Annunciation, that her cousin who had been barren and was in her old age, would bear a child. While not doubting God’s word, Mary went almost immediately to her cousin Elizabeth.
No expectant woman in those days would set out so quickly and eagerly on a journey to the hill country, given the difficulties and risks that travel posed to a pregnancy. But Mary did so, at the urging of Jesus in her womb. Her lively faith and divine wisdom allowed her to meet her cousin Elizabeth, and witness the sign that the Archangel Gabriel spoke about: Elizabeth was pregnant, even in her old age!
Mary proclaimed Mother of God
‘As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.’ In True Devotion to Mary, St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort wrote that Mary was hidden in the first coming of Christ (the Incarnation) as men had yet to be sufficiently instructed and enlightened about her son. And so, Mary was silent for most of the early life of Christ, except for the Visitation, which is the longest discourse of Mary and brings to light what Montfort teaches: “The salvation of the world began through Mary and through her it must be accomplished.”
The Visitation is a reference for what Montfort teaches: “Mary must be known and openly revealed by the Holy Spirit so that Jesus may be known, loved and served through her.” The Visitation is the first time that Mary is proclaimed the Mother of God by man. The beauty of this moment is that the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus the Christ and Mary, the Mother of God without Mary herself disclosing this to Elizabeth.
One must wonder what the Visitation really meant for St John the Baptist, and what St John must have received in his mother’s womb. One could speculate that St John received his baptism, confirmation and ordination all in one moment by Christ and his Mother!
A prayer of profound humility, universal mortification and blind obedience
In Mary’s response to her cousin Elizabeth, she gives us the Magnificat, a canticle of praise to God. In it, she speaks of herself in such a lowly state, despite agreeing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to bring forth Jesus, the Incarnate Wisdom, and in that process giving up what would have been the ordinary, natural course of Jewish marriage and parenthood. Mary, under the guidance of Jesus, her son and her Lord, instead chooses to proclaim the greatness of God and his mercy, both now and in the ages to come.
Her Magnificat today is what we pray as thanksgiving and petition to God. Montfort encourages us to pray the Magnificat: “In the Magnificat we thank God for favouring us in the past, and we beg further blessings from him in the future.”
The companionship of Mary
‘Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.’ The ardent charity shown by Mary to Elizabeth, described in just one line in our scripture passage, cannot be read passively. One should contemplate what went on during those three months. Did Elizabeth need Mary as a caregiver? Was Elizabeth lonely? Or perhaps, was the companionship of Mary a time of continual prayer, catechesis and love? The Holy Spirit was already in Elizabeth, and those three months must have been a wonderful time for the two women to experience God within them.
In this present day and age, Mary accompanies us too, but not physically as she did with Elizabeth. She instead brings us and the Holy Spirit together. Montfort writes, “when the Holy Spirit, her spouse, finds Mary in a soul, he hastens there and enters fully into it. He gives himself generously to that soul according to the place it has given to his spouse.”
Knowing Jesus Living in Mary
The Visitation is of course one of the mysteries that we pray in the Holy Rosary. If you’re longing to be companioned by Mary to receive the Holy Spirit, pray Montfort’s Third Method of Praying the Rosary (click on the image below).
May Mary, the Mother of God revealed by the Holy Spirit, lead us to Christ, our saviour!
· What virtues of Mary do we need today?
· How may we adopt some of those virtues, so that we too can be sanctified by the Holy Spirit in our daily lives?
Brian Ooi, Montfortian Gabrielite Associates
Do you want to know Jesus, living in Mary? Is God calling you to a life consecrated to His Son, through his most Amiable Daughter? Come and see, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.montfortcentre.org/montfortian-associates-movement