Today, May 31st the Church celebrates the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel visits Mary and says she’s been chosen to bear the Son of God. He also says that her relative Elizabeth, who was considered barren, is in the sixth month of her pregnancy.
Immediately after hearing this news, Mary travels to visit Elizabeth. This is known as the Visitation.
First, we’ll look at the Gospel account of the Visitation.
Then, I’ll share four lessons from this significant event.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechari′ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said,
Mary’s Song of Praise
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home (Luke 1:39-56).
*Mary’s Song of Praise is also known as the Canticle of Mary, Magnificat and Ode of the Theotokos.
- Elizabeth said, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (1:45). Even though Elizabeth was old and considered to be barren, she became pregnant with a boy (John the Baptist). This news, along with the news that Mary would bear the Son of God, may have been difficult to believe. Mary, however, has faith in God’s power and accepts the angel’s words. Mary is a woman of great faith and teaches us to believe that “with God nothing will be impossible” (1:37).
- Mary feels called to visit Elizabeth, so she goes — without hesitation. This was not an easy journey! She traveled between 80 and 100 miles through hilly terrain. Mary was around the age of fourteen when these events occurred. Even if she felt fear or anxiety about her calling, it never stopped her from taking action. She listens to God’s voice and follows His divine plan for her. Mary teaches us to be courageous and follow God’s will, one step at a time.
- Mary’s immediate response to the angel’s words is to go out and serve Elizabeth. Even though she receives big news about her own life, she isn’t focused on herself; she’s focused on her pregnant relative. (I don’t know about you, but when I experience something significant in my life my first instinct is usually to focus on myself!) As we’re told, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy when Mary arrives. By going out, she allows others to have an intimate encounter with the Lord. Mary teaches us to reach out to others and serve. By doing so, joy comes to us and to those we meet.
- The Holy Spirit reveals to Elizabeth that she’s in the presence of the Lord and His mother. She then asks why she’s been given this gift. Mary’s response isn’t one that praises herself; it’s one that praises God. In Mary’s Song of Praise, she acknowledges her lowliness before Him. She knows she’s been given a special grace and did nothing to earn it. When Elizabeth turns her attention to Mary, Mary points directly to God. This is Mary’s constant goal: to bring others to the Lord! Because she humbles herself, the Lord exalts her. Mary’s “soul magnifies the Lord” (1:46) and everything she does gives Him praise and glory. Both Mary and Elizabeth teach us to recognize our lowliness before Almighty God and give thanks for His kindness and mercy.