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Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, marking the occasion of Mary's visit to her cousin, Elizabeth in the "town of Judah." What was so special about this trip? Both the young Mary, and the presumably much older Elizabeth were pregnant! One with the unborn Savior and the other with the prophet-to-be John the Baptist.

Highlights

By Father David Begany, SSJ
5/31/2024 (2 weeks ago)

Published in Christian Saints & Heroes

Keywords: Feast, Visitation, Kindness, Gift, Elizabeth, Mary

What is the significance of this event?  I think it is two-fold: The expression of human kindness and compassion on the part of Mary; and the prophetic exclamation of Elizabeth. Mary, no doubt had visited her cousin Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, on other occasions or vice versa and so, they knew each other. At first, it seems that Mary's visit to assist Elizabeth was simply an act of kindness; after all, Elizabeth was "advanced in age," either at the end of her child-bearing years or even beyond. Being pregnant at any age can be challenging and at an older age, even more so. Mary would've helped Elizabeth with household chores, such as cooking, cleaning, gathering water, and more. Doing so would have made Elizabeth's life easier and caused less stress on her body and mind.

But Mary's visit also provided her with an unexpected blessing: Elizabeth's declaration that Mary was "the mother of my Lord." Luke's Gospel tells us that when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting "the infant in my womb leaped for joy." Both the infant - the unborn John the Baptist - and his mother were filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaimed this to Mary. They were  "overshadowed by the Holy Spirit" at the Incarnation of Mary's unborn son, Jesus, who was united to the Father and Holy Spirit as members of the Holy Trinity. Mary's response to Elizabeth and her unborn child, was the prayer that came to be called the Magnificat . . . "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord . . ."

No doubt, Elizabeth's words to Mary about being "the mother of my Lord," was a great consolation to Mary, as her pregnancy did not occur in the natural way, but supernaturally, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her  understanding of that event and its implications would be a mystery that would take time to comprehend. Also, by assisting Elizabeth at her home, Mary would have learned what to expect in her own pregnancy since Elizabeth likely was closer to her due date. Her companionship with Elizabeth would have also provided Mary with emotional support as she experienced pregnancy for the first (and only) time. Having an older and wiser cousin to advise her was a blessing that Mary could take with her when she returned home after, the Bible tells us, "about three months."

When we express kindness to someone whether friend, family, or neighbor there is often an unexpected blessing in return. Perhaps it will be the beginning or development of a good friendship, or the learning of a new skill, or even a time of mutual sharing and support. Whatever benefit is derived, it exemplifies that when we show kindness to another, we often receive their kindness in return!

Father David Begany, SSJ, is a pastoral associate of Priests for Life and pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Baytown, Texas.

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