On May 31 of this year, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorating the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. This providential meeting demonstrated the profound parallels of God’s miraculous work in each of their lives: Mary conceiving as a virgin by the Holy Spirit, and Elizabeth conceiving in her old age after suffering from infertility. Their pregnancies testify to the unexpected manifestations of the power of our God, for whom nothing is too great.
Today, we invite you to learn more about the significance of the Visitation and virtually tour the space where this Joyful Mystery is honored at the Basilica.
What happened at the Visitation?
After Mary had conceived Jesus, she went to the hill country in Judah to visit her cousin Elizabeth. At their meeting, Elizabeth’s baby leapt in her womb, and she blessed Mary and the Christ Child. Luke 1:39- 45 tells us:
“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.’”
Mary, in turn, responded with the famous Magnificat praising the Lord in verses 45-55:
“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.’”
In the Visitation Chapel at the Basilica, this Joyful Mystery is portrayed next to its Old Testament parallel of Obed-Edom welcoming the Ark of the Covenant into his home, as described in 2 Samuel 6.
What is the meaning of the Visitation?
As Pope Benedict XVI has observed, the Visitation provides two primary lessons for us in our walk with God. First, it demonstrates Mary’s humility and willingness to be used by God, calling us to imitate it in our own lives. Second, Mary and Elizabeth’s joy in the Visitation reminds us of how the Church ought to respond to Christ’s incarnation – “welcoming Jesus and bringing him to others.” Just as Mary went to visit her cousin to share the good news of her pregnancy, so too should we share the joy of Christ with the world.
Virtually tour the Visitation Chapel.
You can explore the Visitation Chapel in immersive 360° with our virtual tour below.
Rohling, Geraldine M., PhD, MAEd. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Guide and Tour Book. Washington, D.C.: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 2018.
Light a Candle at the Basilica
In honor of the Blessed Mother, we invite you to light a candle today at the National Shrine. Vigil candles burn in the chapels throughout the Great Upper Church and lower crypt level of the National Shrine. Each candle represents the faith of the supplicants and their fervent prayers entrusted to the loving intercession of the Blessed Mother.