The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1st Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18
Gospel: Luke 1:39-56
Rejoicing in God our Saviour
The Visitation of Our Lady to Saint Elizabeth is celebrated in this modified homily-excerpt from the Venerable Bede (early 8th century), used in the Divine Office of Readings for May 31st. He explains why the Magnificat is used in the church’s prayer.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” With these words Mary first acknowledges the special gifts she has been given. Then she recalls God’s universal favours, bestowed unceasingly on the human race. When we devote all our thoughts to the praise and service of the Lord, we proclaim God’s greatness. Our observance of God’s commands, too, shows that we have God’s power and greatness always at heart. Our spirit rejoices in God our saviour and delights in the mere recollection of his creator who gives us hope for eternal salvation.
“Rejoicing in God my Saviour”..These words can apply to all of God’s creations, but apply especially to the Mother of God. She alone was chosen for that honour, and she burned with spiritual love for the son she so joyously conceived. Above all other saints, she alone could truly rejoice in Jesus, her saviour, for she knew that he who was the source of eternal salvation would be born in time in her body, in one person both her own son and her Lord.
“The Almighty has done great things for me.” Mary attributes nothing to her own merits. She refers all her greatness to the gift of the one whose essence is power and whose nature is greatness, for he fills with greatness and strength the small and the weak who believe in him. And she did well to add: “holy is his name,” to warn those who heard, and indeed all who would receive his words, that they must believe and call upon his name. For they too could share in everlasting holiness and true salvation according to the words of the prophet: “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Therefore it is an excellent and fruitful custom of holy church that we should sing Mary’s hymn at the time of evening prayer. By meditating upon the incarnation, our devotion is kindled, and by remembering the example of God’s Mother, we are encouraged to lead a life of virtue. Such virtues are best achieved in the evening. We are weary after the day’s work and worn out by our distractions. The time for rest is near, and our minds are ready for contemplation.
Showing the way of faith and love
Part of Elizabeth’s greeting of Mary in today’s gospel has made its way into the prayer that we know as the Hail Mary, “of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Elizabeth declares Mary blessed because she is the mother of the Lord. Elizabeth goes on to declare Mary blessed because of her faith, “blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” It was because of her faith that she became the mother of God’s Son. It was her surrender in faith to God’s call, “let it be to me according to your word,” that ensured she would become the mother of the Lord. We may not all be able to imitate Mary’s motherhood, but we can imitate her faith, which was what really defined her. Paul in his letter to the Galatians speaks of “faith working through love” or faith which expresses itself in love. That was the kind of faith Mary had; her visit to Elizabeth was her faith expressing itself in love. This is the same mature faith that we are all called to, “the faith that shows itself in love.” Mary shows us the way to such a faith. [MH]