The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Zephaniah 3:14-18 + Luke 1:39-56
May 31, 2016
“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” [Luke 1:42]
In your preparation for today’s feast, you might have turned to the Office of Readings for December 21st, where the Second Reading is from St. Ambrose’s commentary on the Gospel according to Luke. That commentary from the breviary is fleshed out in the Catena Aurea of Saint Thomas Aquinas, translated by Blessed John Henry Newman. From the Catena Aurea St. Ambrose speaks to us about the mystery of the Visitation:
“The Angel, when he announced the hidden mysteries to the Virgin, that he might build up her faith by an example, related to her the conception of a barren woman. When Mary heard it, … she gladly went forth into the hill country.”
“Learn, O holy women, the attention which you ought to show for your kinswomen with child. For Mary, who before dwelt alone in the secret of her chamber, neither virgin modesty caused to shrink from the public gaze, nor the rugged mountains from pursuing her purpose, nor the tediousness of the journey from performing her duty.
“Learn also, O virgins, the lowliness of Mary. She came a kinswoman to her next of kin, the younger to the elder, nor did she merely come to her, but was the first to give her salutations; as it follows, And she saluted, Elisabeth. For the more chaste a virgin is, the more humble she should be, and ready to give way to her elders. Let her then be the mistress of humility, in whom is the profession of chastity.
“Mary is also a cause of piety, in that the higher went to the lower, that the lower might be assisted[:] Mary to Elisabeth, Christ to John.
“But soon the blessed fruits of Mary’s coming and our Lord’s presence are made evident. … Elisabeth first heard the word, but John first experienced the grace. She heard by the order of nature, he leaped by reason of the mystery. She perceived the coming of Mary, he the coming of the Lord.
“… And [Elizabeth] spoke out with a loud voice, Blessed are you among women. With a loud voice she exclaimed when she perceived the Lord’s coming, for she believed it to be a holy birth.
“She says it not ignorantly, for she knew it was by the grace and operation of the Holy Spirit that the mother of the prophet should be saluted by the mother of his Lord… ; but being aware that this was of no human deserving, but a gift of Divine grace, she therefore says, Whence is this to me, that is, By what right of mine, by what that I have done, for what good deeds?
“As evil came into the world by a woman, so also is good introduced by women; and so it seems not without meaning, that both Elisabeth prophesies before John, and Mary before the birth of the Lord. But it follows, that as Mary was the greater person, so she uttered the fuller prophecy.
“The soul of Mary therefore magnifies the Lord, and her spirit rejoiced in God, because with soul and spirit devoted to the Father and the Son, she worships with a pious affection the one God from whom are all things. But let every one have the spirit of Mary, so that [every one] may rejoice in the Lord. If according to the flesh there is one mother of Christ, yet, according to faith, Christ is the fruit of all.”