May 31: The Visitation of Mary

Today’s Feast on the Church’s calendar commemorates the visit that Mary, already pregnant with Jesus, made to her older cousin, St. Elizabeth, who was pregnant with the future St. John the Baptist.

This story comes in the Infancy Narrative of St. Luke’s Gospel (1, 39-56) immediately after the account of the Annunciation, when Mary was asked by the angel to become the mother of Jesus. She had given her unconditional assent to the request, even though at first she found it difficult to understand because, although she was already committed in marriage to St. Joseph, they had not begun to live together. Nevertheless, after the assurance of the angel, she put herself totally in God’s hands: “See, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it happen to me just as you have said.”

St. Elizabeth responds to the visit by saying: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Notice that it is the faith of Mary in God’s word that St. Elizabeth praises. It is then that Mary, in response to her cousin’s words, speaks her hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God, a hymn we know as the Magnificat, from its first word in the Latin version.

In his Letter to the Romans (12, 9-16), St. Paul writes: “Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.” This is just what we see taking place between Mary and her cousin as they meet together. Is it the way we behave in dealing with all the people who come into our lives?

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