Saturday, May 31, 2008

May 31- The Feast of The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today, May 31st, in the western Church, we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On this day, we celebrate the visit of the Virgin Mary to Elizabeth, her cousin. Elizabeth is with child at this point as well with John, who is to become the Baptist who baptizes Jesus in the Jordon. This feast is celebrated on May 31, but this is a recent date to celebrate it on. In the Tridentine Calendar, the feast is celebrated on July 2.
The history of this feast day began with the Franciscans when in 1263 they started recognizing this feast upon suggestion by St. Bonaventure, a famous Franciscan theologian who lived about a generation after St. Francis. It was universally adopted in 1389 by Pope Urban VI. According to one source I read, he instituted the feast with the hope that Christ and His Mother "would visit the Church and put an end to the great schism which rent the seamless garment of Christ" ( Maybe a greater devotion to Our Lady of the Visitation could help alleviate divisions we have now, not only between Catholics who may disagree on things, but also between Catholics and non-Catholic Protestants. May we always seek and strive after unity, as that seamless garment of Christ.

The following are the liturgical readings of the day, so that one may read and meditate upon them.

Reading 1
Zep 3:14-18a

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.


Rom 12:9-16

Brothers and sisters:
Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you,
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly;
do not be wise in your own estimation.

Responsorial Psalm
Isaiah 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

R. (6) Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Lk 1:39-56

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“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.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.

The Magnificat proclaimed above by Mary (beginning with "My Soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord") will be the topic of future posts.
There is a lot of artwork attributed to this feast. It is one of the major scenes of the life of Mary that artists throughout the centuries have tried to capture. I provide you here with a sampling of artistic renditions.

These are just a few samples of the artwork done throughout the history of Christianity that have captured the Visitation.

Over the years of meditating on this scene from the Bible on the life of Mary, there are some things that stand out on this passage. In the Catholic Church, there is a deep tradition of Eucharistic processions. The Eucharist is placed in a monstrance and is processed around. It is a devotion of piety. When I participate in a procession like this, I am always looking forward to that time when the Eucharist is right in front of me. It is an intense moment of intimate prayer, and we are reawakened to the mystery and truth of the Eucharist. What is the truth of the Eucharist? It is the truth professed in John 6, "I am the bread of life." The Eucharist is Jesus' body and blood. It is a true sign; it isn't just a symbol.

Mary, in the Gospel account, is in a way the very first monstrance, and Elizabeth and John who encounter her are reawakened to a deep faith. For it says in the Gospel account that John leapt in Elizabeth's womb when they came near. The Feast of the Visitation is really an account of the very first Eucharistic procession.

This is why the priest humbly submits himself to the will of God, to be able to carry out the task of bringing Jesus into the world at Holy Mass. The priest should constantly say "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to thy Word." It was Mary's radical yes that allowed the Son of God to enter into the world in the first place, and the Eucharist is the priest remembering that Incarnation, by literally bringing Jesus into the world again. So as the priest is constantly imitating Christ by being "in persona Christi", he is also in a special way imitating Mary, by submitting himself to allow Jesus to enter into the world (The Annunciation), and by bringing the Eucharist to the whole world, like Mary herself did in the Visitation. What I write here can only touch upon this great mystery of the priest and Mary, and what we learn from the Visitation. Many of my reflections will involve this biblical passage because of the amount of information we learn as a result of it.

What I recommend today is to pray the Joyful mysteries of the Holy Rosary. The second Joyful Mystery is the Visitation, and I invite you to prayerfully contemplate this great Feast. It can open up many meditative subjects. How can I imitate Mary and bring Christ to the world? How do I respond to the Gospel message of salvation offered through Christ? How can we better imitate Elizabeth, that great woman of faith who was barren until late in life, and still had faith in God, and whose son would eventually become the herald of Christ? These are things that we may need to think about. I would consider it.

God bless. Our Lady of the Visitation, pray for us. St. Elizabeth, pray for us. All you holy angels and saints, pray for us.

1 comment:

Kayla said...

Wow. Great meditation, Bobby. I had never considered what a connection the Blessed Mother has with priests. Thanks for starting this blog, I'll definitely be stopping in every now and then to read up!