Fr. John Denburger, OCSO
Feast of the Visitation of Mary
Romans 12: 9 – 16; Is 12; Luke 1: 39 – 56
The opening prayer for this feast proclaims: “Almighty, ever-living God, who, while the Blessed Virgin Mary was carrying your Son in her womb, inspired her to visit Elizabeth…” That inspiration resulted in two effects; it was truly a mutual assistance. Mary helped Elizabeth who was already 6 months pregnant as the Gospel tells us “in her old age” and Elizabeth, in turn, helped Mary who in her youth had just conceived a child.
It was the mother of 11 children, a psychologist, Patricia Kelly, who is known to our community who shared from her own experience an insight into this meeting of Mary and Elizabeth. Speaking from her own experience, she said that when a woman conceives there are many changes in her person, not only physically, and these changes can raise fears, pose questions. Mary came to help and surely did for three months and Elizabeth, in turn, was able to help a very human Mary by relieving her fears, by assuring her that all was well.
The opening prayer continues: “…grant us we pray that, faithful to the prompting of the Spirit, we may magnify your greatness with the Virgin Mary at all times.” If it did happen that Mary sought Elizabeth’s assurance, it is most clear that her greater focus was not on herself but on God. Her prayer which the Church, which we chant every evening at Vespers proclaims the focus, the center of her life. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant…and holy is His Name.”
In this Gospel of St. Luke, by prayer and by example, Our Lady witnesses and teaches the great commandments of the Law: Love God above all things; love your neighbor as you love yourself. Her love of self is healthy, good, unafraid, humble to seek help; her love of neighbor was self-forgetful: “She set out…in haste”. Her great canticle, a litany of praise of God surely flowed from her depths, her immaculate heart – the greatness of her love, her gratitude more than reveal her soul.
Marian devotion is very much a part of our faith life but Marian devotion without sincere, constant, profound love of God, of neighbor, of self in thought and action is nothing more than self-serving. May our Lady of the Visitation, who came to the aid of Elizabeth, continue to come to us. May she visit us through her loving intercession.