A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Visitation

Fr Kevin Head SM

Feast, 31 May

When you walk in the summer through the heat on the hill
When you’re one with the wind, and one with God’s will,
Be glad with the burden you are blessed to bear.
For it’s Christ whom you carry everywhere, everywhere … everywhere.

The Visit, by Patti Cohenour

A visitation is more than a visit. Its purpose is different, and it aims to achieve something. A visitation is a meeting that has, within it, a special meaning. Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth carries within it the meaning of the Son of God’s presence, the Word of God in Mary’s womb.

St Ambrose was archbishop of Milan from 374 until 397. He described Mary’s meeting with Elizabeth beautifully in his Commentary on the Gospel According to Luke:
Elizabeth was the first to hear the voice, but John the first to experience grace. Whereas the natural sound of words rang in his mother’s ears, John rejoiced in the mystery of what they meant. Elizabeth felt Mary’s presence at her side; John, the closeness of the Lord. Elizabeth hears her cousin’s greeting; John felt the presence of her Son. The two women spoke of grace, but their two sons experienced grace and communicated that gift to their mothers in such a way that, in a double miracle, both women began to prophesy, inspired by their sons.

Some 1500 years later, in The Reed of God, Caryll Houselander wrote:

Many women, if they were expecting a child, would refuse to hurry over the hills on a visit of pure kindness. They would say they had a duty to themselves and to their unborn child which came before anything or anyone else.
The Mother of God considered no such thing. Elizabeth was going to have a child, too, and although Mary's own child was God, she could not forget Elizabeth's need—almost incredible to us, but characteristic of her.
She greeted her cousin Elizabeth, and at the sound of her voice, John quickened in his mother's womb and leapt for joy.
“I am come", said Christ, "that they may have life and may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). Even before he was born his presence gave life. ...
If Christ is growing in us, if we are at peace, recollected, because we know that however insignificant our life seems to be, from it he is forming himself; if we go with eager wills … to wherever our circumstances compel us, because we believe that he desires to be in that place, we shall find that we are driven more and more to act on the impulse of his love.

Mary’s visiting Elizabeth is a model for the way in which all of us, as followers of Christ, are invited to live our vocation. By visiting Elizabeth, staying with her and helping her, Mary expressed her love and care for her cousin. If you love people, you do things for them and you go out of your way to express what is in your heart, no matter how much it costs.

We are to live life big-heartedly for others with immense generosity of spirit and will.

Just as Mary brought Christ to John the Baptist and to Elizabeth and Zechariah, and just as Mary gave Christ to the world, we are to bring Christ’s love to people by living out our Christian vocation to the best of our ability. May God bless each and every one of us for all of the ways in which the love of God in Christ shines in our lives.   

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