Image: “The Visitation,” Jacopo da Pontormo. (© Antonio Quattrone, Florence/Getty)
I often wonder at how very blessed Elizabeth was, that the Mother of the Lord should visit her – and not just visit, but remain with her for three whole months.
And once I have thought about this, I remind myself that we, too – all of us, every one – have much the same blessing and privilege; the Mother of Our Lord visits us, too – and She remains with us throughout our lives, faithful to the task given Her by Her Son upon the Cross, when He asked Her to “behold Your son”. Although those words were immediately directed to Mary in reference to John, the Beloved Disciple, they are for every one of us. Equally, then, the words of Christ to John are for us, too – “behold your Mother”.
In His infinite wisdom, the Almighty has made Himself dependent upon this young woman – His whole plan of salvation hangs on Her consent to what He proposes to Her; and while He knows She will accept, that knowledge does not in any way affect or impinge upon the freedom of the answer She will give – “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to Me”.
In the Gospel account of the Visitation, the writer tells us that Mary “went with haste” to be with Elizabeth and to help her in her hour of need. So it is with us; She comes with haste to our assistance also.
Elizabeth’s immediate response is to bless Mary and to recognise the Lord within Her womb, and to acknowledge the joy this visit has bought her. In Her response, the Blessed Virgin immediately turns the praise to God – “My souls glorifies the Lord; My spirit exults in God, My Saviour” (Lk.1:46-47).
Mary also utters a prophecy in this song of praise – She says that “all generations will call Me blessed”. And how we do! Her blessedness is because of Her sublime role as the Mother of the Saviour, but also because of Her complete docility to the Divine Will.
Mothers fret for their children; they worry about them and do all in their power to succour and assist them. The Blessed Virgin is no different in this respect except, perhaps, that She is very clearly aware of just how much we need Her assistance.
I know very little about Heaven and what it might be like, but I know this – in Heaven, the Blessed Virgin pleads for us constantly before Her Son, as much as He, in turn, pleads for us before the Father. This is Her task and She will not rest until the day of the Final Judgement.
The moment of the Visitation is also the first moment of missionary activity – Mary is the first one to bring Christ the Lord to another person.
Considering how blessed we are to have Mary as our Mother in the order of grace, and mindful that we are called to imitate Her as the examplar of what it means to be ‘Church’ and to be Christian, perhaps this is a good moment to consider how well we are fulfilling this task given to us through our baptism. Are we bringing Christ to others? And we delighting in the praise of God? Are we perfectly docile to His will?
May this good Mother visit us in our need, as She visited Elizabeth; and may She obtain for us every grace we need that we might follow Her example always.