Today we celebrate the feast of the Visitation, the time when Our Lady visited her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist, the one who would “prepare the way of the Lord,” (Mk 1:2).
Informed by the angel Gabriel at the annunciation that “…Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren,” (Lk 1:36), Our Lady responded immediately to the news by going out to visit her cousin.
At the sound of Mary’s greeting, and of course, at the presence of the recently conceived Jesus, John the Baptist leaps for joy in the womb of his mom. “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.’” (Lk 1:41-45)
A time of great joy for these two women, Our Lady answers Elizabeth’s greeting with the Magnificat. We all know it well.
I don’t know if this ever happens to you, but have you ever been totally captivated by the opening prayer of the Mass? (We call it “the collect”.) Today’s collect did exactly that to me:
Almighty ever-living God,
who, while the Blessed Virgin Mary was carrying your Son in her womb,
inspired her to visit Elizabeth,
grant us, we pray,
that, faithful to the promptings of the Spirit,
we may magnify your greatness
with the Virgin Mary at all times.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever.
Two things grabbed me – being faithful to the promptings of the Spirit and magnifying God’s greatness – both with the Virgin Mary at all times.
Our Lady provides the game plan for doing such in her beautiful response to Elizabeth:
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 shall 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 forever. (Lk 1:46-55)
What are the clues she gives us as to how we can magnify the Lord:
Rejoice – “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Phil 4:4) St. Paul exhorts us; he continues, “I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7) Seeking joy in God, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, leads us to peace. When we are peaceful, others around us know it, and we radiate the love of God.
Acknowledge God’s sovereignty – Embracing God as mighty puts us in the proper relation to the Creator. He is the creator; we are not – an apt definition of one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the fear of the Lord. The book of Proverbs tells us, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Pv 9:10). Accepting who we are and who God is moves us along the path of wisdom. When we are wise, others around us know it, and we radiate the Truth of God.
Trust – accepting God’s mercy is an act of trust. Justice is when we get what we deserve; mercy is when we don’t get what we do deserve. Twice Our Lady uses the word “mercy” – once in a singular context, “on those who fear him,” and once in a plural context, “his servant Israel.” No coincidence, I think. Mercy is for the individual, the family, the community, the nation, and the world. Believing in God’s mercy makes manifest our trust in him. When we trust in God, others around us know it, and we point to the goodness of God.
So today, magnify the Lord by rejoicing, by acknowledging his sovereignty, and by trusting him. Our Lady will be right alongside you, and you will have an uncanny ability to be “faithful to the promptings of the Spirit”.
St. Elizabeth, Blessed Mother, pray for us! Anne