Skip to comments.Feast of the Visitation (of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth) [Ecumenical]
Posted on 05/30/2008 8:56:18 PM PDT by Salvation
What an easily-overlooked but beautiful Feast the Visitation is! Begun by St. Bonaventure among the Franciscans in A.D. 1263, it became a universal Feast in 1389, during the papacy of Urban VI.
This Feast commemorates what is the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: Our Lady's visit to her cousin, Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant with St. John the Baptist at the time. At the end of the Archangel Gabriel's Annunciation to Our Lady that she will conceive, he tells her that her cousin, Elizabeth, an older woman thought barren, will also conceive. The story as told in the first chapter of Luke (verses 37-47 of this chapter form the Gospel reading for today), the words in italics being the prayer known as "The Magnificat":
And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: Because no word shall be impossible with God.
It's strange that this Feast should come after 1 the Feast of St. John which we just celebrated eight days ago, but this is the day after the octave of his birthday and helps explain why his birth was so important. It was at the Visitation that St. John, along with his mother, were filled with the Holy Ghost, the cause of his being born without the stain of original sin. It is today that our Redeemer, Our Lady, and the one about whom Christ said "there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist" all came together, the three pure ones all born without sin after the Fall (of course, Christ and His mother were also conceived without sin).
And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple, and there were lightnings, and voices, and an earthquake, and great hail. And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems: And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne.
These verses and the words of St. St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (a.k.a. Gregory of Neocaesarea, A.D. 213 - ca. 270) remind us who Mary is:
And thus she received the word, and in the due time of the fulfilment according to the body's course she brought forth the priceless pearl. Come, then, ye too, dearly beloved, and let us chant the melody which has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, "Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest; Thou, and the ark of Thy sanctuary." For the holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary.
Pray the words of St. Athanasius and realize the depths of Mary's beauty! Turn to her to intercede for us with her Son:
O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all, O Ark of the Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which Divinity resides.
Turn to Our Lady!
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Mary's Visitation of Elizabeth-St. Ambrose
This excerpt from St. Ambroses commentary on Luke (Lib. 2, 19.22-23. 26-27: CCL 14, 39-42) is used in the Roman Office of Readings during the Fourth week of Advent, on December 21. The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the second joyful mystery of the rosary.
When the angel revealed his message to the Virgin Mary he gave her a sign to win her trust. He told her of the motherhood of an old and barren woman to show that God is able to do all that he wills.
When she hears this Mary sets out for the hill country. She does not disbelieve Gods word; she feels no uncertainty over the message or doubt about the sign. She goes eager in purpose, dutiful in conscience, hastening for joy.
Filled with God, where would she hasten but to the heights? The Holy Spirit does not proceed by slow, laborious efforts. Quickly, too, the blessings of her coming and the Lords presence are made clear: as soon as Elizabeth heard Marys greeting the child leapt in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Notice the contrast and the choice of words. Elizabeth is the first to hear Marys voice, but John is the first to be aware of grace. She hears with the ears of the body, but he leaps for joy at the meaning of the mystery. She is aware of Marys presence, but he is aware of the Lords: a woman aware of a womans presence, the forerunner aware of the pledge of our salvation. The women speak of the grace they have received while the children are active in secret, unfolding the mystery of love with the help of their mothers, who prophesy by the spirit of their sons.
The child leaps I the womb; the mother is filled with the Holy Spirit, but not before her son. Once the son has been filled with the Holy Spirit, he fills his mother with the same Spirit. John leaps for joy, and the spirit of Mary rejoices in her turn. When John leaps for joy Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, but we know that though Marys spirit rejoices, she does not need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Her son, who is beyond our understanding, is active in his mother in a way beyond our understanding. Elizabeth is filled with the Holly Spirit after conceiving John, while Mary is filled with the Holy Spirit before conceiving the Lord. Elizabeth says: Blessed are you because you have believed.
You also are blessed because you have heard and believed. A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God and acknowledges his works.
Let Marys soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God if only it keeps chaste, remaining pure and free from sin, its modesty undefiled. The soul that succeeds in this proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as Marys soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. In another place we read: Magnify the Lord with me. The Lord is magnified, not because the human voice can add anything to God but because he is magnified within us. Christ is the image of God, and if the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted.
Visitation -- Mary's Soul Proclaims God's Greatness (St. Bede)
“My Soul, Now Bless Thy Maker”
by Johann Gramann, 1487-1541
1. My soul, now bless thy Maker!
Let all within me bless His name
Who maketh thee partaker
Of mercies more than thou dar’st claim.
Forget Him not whose meekness
Still bears with all thy sin,
Who healeth all thy weakness,
Renews thy life within;
Whose grace and care are endless
And saved thee through the past;
Who leaves no sufferer friendless,
But rights the wronged at last.
2. He shows to man His treasure
Of judgment, truth, and righteousness,
His love beyond all measure,
His yearning pity o'er distress,
Nor treats us as we merit,
But lays His anger by,
The humble, contrite spirit
Finds His compassion nigh;
And high as heaven above us,
As break from close of day,
So far, since He doth love us,
He puts our sins away.
3. For as a tender father
Hath pity on his children here,
He in His arms will gather
All who are His in childlike fear.
He knows how frail our powers
Who but from dust are made;
We flourish like the flowers,
And even so we fade;
The wind but o'er them passes,
And all their bloom is o'er,-
We wither like the grasses,
Our place knows us no more.
4. God's grace alone endureth,
And children's children yet shall prove
How He with strength assureth
The hearts of all that seek His love.
In heaven is fixed His dwelling,
His rule is over all;
Angels, in might excelling,
Bright hosts, before Him fall.
Praise Him, who ever reigneth,
All ye who hear His Word,
Nor our poor hymns disdaineth-
My soul, oh, bless the Lord!
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Psalm 103
Author: Johann Gramann, 1525
Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1863, alt.
Titled: Nun lob, mein’ Seel’, den Herre
Tune: Nun lob, mein’ Seel’
1st Published in: “Concentus Novi”
Town: Augsburg, 1540
I think the Magnificat sung all by itself is also very beautiful.
Thanks for the icon.