Mary’s Visitation

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.”

During this month of May, this month dedicated to Our Lady, we easily think of the greatest Cinderella story of all times – how Mary, the Jewish handmaid of Nazareth became the mother of Jesus and the very Queen of heaven. Although, how can we say anything about Mary that has not been said many times before? Whether it be through Church councils, revelations from various saints, or even in sacred music or art. Without question, however, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the greatest treasures of the Church.

These weeks devoted to our Lady reaches its climax on the final day of the month as we celebrate the great feast of the Visitation. It was shortly after the Annunciation that Mary made haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth. At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel informs Mary of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, sort of inviting her to make the journey to visit her cousin. Mary, whose entire life had been transformed at the Annunciation, is so moved at the news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy that she responds with an act of perfect generosity. St. Luke tells us that she immediately departs to see her cousin.

If we were to learn of a close friend’s pregnancy it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to bring them a gift or even to bake one of their favorite foods. Sacred Scripture doesn’t mention that Mary came with gifts on her journey, instead, it tells of only one thing that she brought when she visited Elizabeth—her very self. Think about it, how easy is it to call a florist and have flowers delivered, but the gift of one’s own presence is far greater than even the most stunning rose. To give the gift of ourselves, to take the time to actually
be with another, that is the gift that many people long to receive. As Gaudium et Spes illustrates, “man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”

Our Lady’s generosity is then honored by an action of the Holy Spirit—When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. I don’t think it’s coincidence that wherever Mary is, the Holy Spirit is also nearby. When Mary gave her fiat at the Annunciation to be the Theotokos, the Mother of the Son of God, she also became the spouse of the Holy Spirit. The third person of the Blessed Trinity lives in Mary in a very particular way, one that is unique and that belongs only to the Mother of God. We see in the Visitation that it is the voice of Mary that is the instrument used by the Holy Spirit to sanctify Elizabeth and her son John the Baptist.

In our daily lives it is doubtful that we would see the Holy Spirit carrying out such significant actions. At the same time, though, doesn’t the Lord give us other signs every so often to make us aware of His presence in us? Or even of His actions working through our attempts at whatever works He has entrusted to us? I’m sure you can think of different people in your life—be it a friend, relative, teacher, or priest—who on a particular occasion or even over time, helped enlighten or guide you in your journey of faith. How much more, then, will the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us through baptism and then is sealed in our soul at confirmation, help to stir in us a renewed fervor in our Christian lives as we desire to grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus, as we strive to further give ourselves in selfless love to whatever the Lord places before us.

When speaking about our Lady giving the gift of herself in her fiat, our founder once shared in a conference that “Mary would never see the world in the same way again. Mary never could see the world in the same way again because she had conceived beneath her heart the Word, the Son of God made flesh within her…Reflect on the Annunciation as told by St. Luke; reflect on The Annunciation as told poetically by Fr. John Duffy. Reflect on what it means to open yourself entirely to the Holy Spirit so that the Holy Spirit can conceive in you the Son of God. Reflect on what it means to give up everything else in order to receive the Son of God. Reflect on what it means to leave all security behind you and go off into the hill country to help another pregnant woman who is in need of help. Reflect on what it means to spend your life to reflect on Life itself within your virginal womb so that that Life, that Light may radiate outwardly from you and penetrate the darkness of a world that can never overpower it.”

In these days between Pentecost and the Feast of the Visitation, let us pray that the Paraclete might enkindle in our hearts a renewed spirit of generosity so as to more perfectly reflect Our Lady.