Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Visitation

From two years ago, when the ephemeris was more irenic.

The Visitation is one of the Bear's favorite feasts. The story is heartwarming, and the implications are profound. It is a summing up of the Old and the New Covenants.

The Virgin Mary, with the Child Jesus being knit inside of her, visits her kinswoman Elizabeth, who is also pregnant with a child of promise, John, who would become The Baptizer.

What during this long trip, which we meditate upon in the Second Joyful Mystery of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was our young Mary thinking? Surely about the mystery in which she discovered she played such a central role.

She recalled angel's greeting ("Ave Maria, gratia plena"), and and was warmed by the knowledge that the long-awaited Messiah was finally here. When she finally greets Elizabeth, our young Mary bursts into praise, much like Miriam after the Jews were delivered by God from the Egyptians.

So Mary the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand: and all the women went forth after her with timbrels and with dances. And she began the song to them, saying: Let us sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously magnified, the horse and his rider he hath thrown into the sea. (Ex 15:20–21).

Mary's song has come down to us as "The Magnificat," which the Church sings every day at Vespers in her Divine Office. It may seem odd to us today, but it is likely that Mary was steeped in Holy Scripture. The Holy Spirit moved her along familiar paths. For this was a greater delivery. How could she keep from singing?

And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid: for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.
He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy.
As he spoke to our fathers: to Abraham and to his seed for ever. 

(Lk 1:46–55)

In the visitation, we have one of the greatest meetings in the Bible. The two covenants embrace, the Old and the New. The Old is represented by the old Elizabeth, bearing within her The Last Prophet of the Old Covenant. The New is embodied by our young Mary, bearing within her the Savior, who is inaugurating the New Covenant.

John the Baptist leaps in his mother's womb at the presence of his Lord.

Everyone knows that the little happenings that occur during even an ordinary pregnancy are remembered and retold fondly. We have no reason to doubt that the story occurred exactly as St. Luke recounts. He would likely have heard it from the pure lips of our Lady herself. She remembered all these things and pondered them in her heart.


  1. BEAUTIFUL reflection....thanks Bear. Much needed today.
    And don't you just love that the word for St. John "leaping" in Elizabeth's womb before the Ark of the New Covenant is the very same (rarely used) word found in 2 Sam 6:14 when David 'danced/leaped' before the ark of the Old Covenant. God is so good!

  2. The Visitation is one of my favorite feasts also! Thank you for enriching it by your reflection.

  3. Such a beautiful meditation on a sublimely beautiful event. And such glorious depictions of it in art. Many thanks, Bear, for sounding this truly lovely note on which to end "Mary's month".

  4. Lovely post. The art is so beautiful. Thank you. I echo the need for a post like this today. What wonderful images to meditate upon in the second joyful mystery.


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