|May 21, 2012 • VOL. 50, NO. 9 • Oakland, CA|
| Visitation of the Blessed Virgin: What it means for us
While the feast of Mary's Visitation to Elizabeth has been celebrated on other dates, the liturgical calendar revision authorized by Pope Paul VI placed it on May 31 — after the Annunciation (March 25) and before the birthday of St. John the Baptist (June 24).
The theme of the Visitation feast centers on Mary responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to set out on a mission of charity. This is reflected in the opening prayer and the prayer over the gifts, and in the canticle antiphons for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. With John the Baptist we recognize joyfully the presence of Christ. The feast clearly celebrates the first chapter of St. Luke's Gospel.
Church documents attest to the importance of the feast.
The thrust of chapters one and two of Luke's Gospel is not simply a family event between Elizabeth and Mary. The Visitation is an event of salvation history. Elizabeth, a model of the Old Testament, meets the New Testament in Mary's faith in the mystery of her own destiny. But what is most significant is the meeting of their unborn children. John, who leaps in his mother's womb, is already anticipating his role as precursor of the Messiah.
To bring Jesus will always be the supreme norm of any genuine apostolate. The Church's mission is to show Jesus as wisdom and power in each situation of human need.
While the prayer after communion invites us to recognize the presence of Christ among us in the Eucharist, we must remember that the presence of Christ is discovered not only in the Eucharist. He is met in others, and he asks us to serve him in others. Mary's service for Elizabeth by her visit remains a model for the Christian who wishes to meet Christ in daily life.
Liturgy and life nourish faith
Like us, Mary had to walk by faith. One writer likens faith to darkness and light. It is dark because we cannot fully grasp divine truth. It is light since faith brings us to truths we cannot know otherwise. Mary walked in the light of faith. God told her enough about his plan for her to make each new step. Faith is not only intellectual, that is, belief. Faith is also trust and action.
An important element of Mary's faith is also common to ours. God speaks to us through others. We come to know God and his saving plan through people in the Christian community; for example, parents, teachers, preachers, and others. Revelation is not made directly to us. Except for the special experience of the Annunciation, Mary came to know God's will through others.
Mary's faith, which is praised by Elizabeth, draws her to the dignity of being the Mother of Jesus and still greater to being a true disciple of the Lord. Faith was not easier for her than for us. The contrary is true. For Mary it was more difficult to believe than for the apostles. She understood more of God's plan. Blessed John Paul II commented that the expression, "blessed is she who believed," is a key unlocking the innermost reality of Mary. Being aware that this faith was difficult, involving deep struggle, gives us an insight into Mary's life and evidence of her likeness to us, sharing completely in the human condition, but without sin.
(Marianist Brother John Samaha is a retired religious educator who worked for many years in the catechetical department of the Oakland Diocese. He now resides in Cupertino.)
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