Celebrated on May 31, the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary commemorates the Virgin Mary’s visit to her cousin, Elizabeth. The meeting of these two women was a joyful and unique event. Both found themselves pregnant in unusual circumstances – Elizabeth in her old age after suffering from infertility, and Mary by the Holy Spirit.
At their meeting, John the Baptist leaped in the womb of Elizabeth, and she blessed Mary and the Christ Child. Mary, in turn, responds with the famous Magnificat praising the Lord.
This visit is detailed in Luke 1:39- 55 (NABRE):
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and 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.”
And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
As Pope Benedict XVI said, this feast day is a day to recognize Mary’s humility and willingness to be used by God, and strive to imitate it in our own lives:
Going beyond the surface, Mary “sees” the work of God in history with the eyes of faith… Her Magnificat, at the distance of centuries and millennia, remains the truest and most profound interpretation of history, while the interpretations of so many of this world’s wise have been belied by events in the course of the centuries…
Let us bring the same sentiments of praise and thanksgiving of Mary to the Lord, her faith and her hope, her docile abandonment in the hands of Divine Providence. May we imitate her example of readiness and generosity in the service of our brethren. Indeed, only by accepting God’s love and making of our existence a selfless and generous service to our neighbor, can we joyfully lift a song of praise to the Lord.
At the Basilica, the Visitation is depicted in the Chapels of the Joyful Mysteries in the Great Upper Church. The mosaic shows Elizabeth joyfully greeting Mary and the Christ Child in her womb.