The visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Luke 1:39-56
The Gospel of today is dominated by two women; they own every line and sentence and become for us models of faith. On the surface they seem to be ‘lowly’ and perhaps even women who carry a shame. Mary was with child before she was engaged to Joseph and Elizabeth was barren; a first century Jewish shame that made society look down on you. Yet it is these two women who are blessed because they lived their faith.
Mary, we are told, sets out ‘in haste’ to meet Elizabeth, her cousin. Mary was fully conscious of her new status; she was the mother of God. Yet she does not pull rank but places herself at service. Remember she left in haste, not to declare proudly her new position but to be of service to her cousin, now advanced in age and well advanced in her pregnancy. She goes to ‘greet’ her cousin. Mary celebrates the joy of her relatives; there are no pangs of jealousy just zeal to share in the joy of others.
The scriptures record very little of Elizabeth. However, she too like Mary is a great woman of faith. Unlike her husband Zechariah, who heard the message of the angel and doubted, Elizabeth had no doubts. Unlike Mary who was a young woman, Elizabeth was well advanced in age. The Gospel tells us that on hearing the greeting of Mary the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leapt. It is later in verse 44 that Elizabeth confesses that this was not just an ordinary baby kick but that this leaping was joyful.
Interestingly, up to this moment Elizabeth has no clue why Mary has come to visit her. Then in verse 41b we are told that she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Now the wisdom of God is revealed to her. She now proclaims what no one else knew and what not even Mary has revealed to her. The power of the Holy Spirit is revealed all through the infancy narratives. Mary conceives by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth to reveal what no one knows and Simeon is directed by the Holy spirit to seek Jesus in the temple. Which prompts me to ask, are we in tune with the Holy Spirit?
Later on in verse 46 we will hear of Mary’s Magnificat but now we hear of Elizabeth’s megaphone. Yes, you read that correctly! The translation of the word ‘exclaimed with a loud cry’ really translates from Greek as ‘mega’. Elizabeth shouts to the world not whispers her blessings. The Good news MUST be proclaimed especially when God has shown us so great a mercy.
Like Mary, Elizabeth too is lavish in her praise. She declares Mary as blessed among women. It is her acclamation of blessedness that forms part of the recitation of the Hail Mary in every rosary we say. Mary is declared blessed among women and so is the fruit of her womb. For the Jews, ‘to bless’ was not understood as giving a blessing as we do today but rather to bless God, to thank God. Elizabeth is giving thanks (Eucharist) to God for Mary and for Jesus. In this, we too are called to give thanks to God for revealing his will for us.
Like Mary, Elizabeth too has found favour with the Lord. She declares her perplexity that this great secret of the impending birth of a saviour has been revealed to her through the visit of Mary, “the mother of her Lord.” She now understands why her son not only leapt but leapt with joy. Like Elizabeth, we too are often confused by the mystery of God’s ways in our life. Why us, why now… why?