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What the Holy Fathers tell us about the Visitation

Celebrated on May 31, the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary honors Mary’s visit to her cousin, Elizabeth. The joyful meeting of these two women celebrated two miraculous pregnancies: Elizabeth had conceived in her old age after suffering from infertility, and Mary, as a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit. At their reunion, John the Baptist leapt in Elizabeth’s womb, and she blessed Mary and the Christ Child. Mary, in turn, responded with the famous Magnificat praising the Lord.

The Visitation Chapel in the Upper Church

Today, we invite you to meditate upon Visitation reflections from the Holy Fathers and learn from Mary’s joyous response to God’s call in her life.

The First Lesson of the Visitation: Mary’s Obedience

As Pope Benedict XVI has said, this feast day calls us 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.” 

Ultimately, Mary’s ready acceptance of God’s will for her life enabled her to practice the true charity of Christ:

“We find reflected in Mary’s visitation the hopes and expectations of the humble, God-fearing people who were awaiting the fulfilment of the prophetic promises… By accepting the divine will, Mary offered her active co-operation so that God could become man in her maternal womb. She bore the divine Word within her as she went to visit her elderly cousin who, in turn, was awaiting the Baptist’s birth. In this act of human solidarity, Mary demonstrated that authentic charity which grows within us when Christ is present.” – St. John Paul II

The Visitation: Reminding of Us of Our Joy in Christ

Mary and Elizabeth’s joy reminds us of how the Church ought to respond to Christ’s incarnation:

“Mary, living Tabernacle of God made flesh, is the Ark of the Covenant in whom the Lord visited and redeemed his people. Jesus’ presence filled her with the Holy Spirit. When she entered Elizabeth’s house, her greeting was overflowing with grace: John leapt in his mother’s womb, as if he were aware of the coming of the One whom he would one day proclaim to Israel. The children exulted, the mothers exulted. This meeting, imbued with the joy of the Holy Spirit, is expressed in the Canticle of the Magnificat. 
Is this not also the joy of the Church, which ceaselessly welcomes Christ in the holy Eucharist and brings him into the world with the testimony of active charity, steeped in faith and hope? Yes, welcoming Jesus and bringing him to others is the true joy of Christians!” – Pope Benedict XVI

The Visitation portrayed in the Rosary Garden mosaic
The Visitation portrayed in the Rosary Walk and Garden mosaic

Beyond Joy: Spreading the Gospel

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:

“We recognize in the Virgin Mary who goes to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth the clearest example and the truest meaning of our journey as believers and of the journey of the Church herself. The Church is missionary by her very nature, she is called to proclaim the Gospel everywhere and always and to pass on the faith to every man and woman, and to every culture.”

Pope Benedict XVI
“Because of her unique role in Christ’s life and work, [Mary] has become the exemplar of the Church’s life and mission. What Mary has been to Jesus the Church is now called to be in the fulfilment of Christ’s saving work to the ends of the earth. Like Mary bringing to Elizabeth the Good News of salvation and the presence of the Savior himself, the Church exists down through the centuries to proclaim the Gospel message to all peoples and to offer them the light, life and love of Christ the Savior.”

St. John Paul II  

At the Basilica, the Visitation is depicted in the Visitation Chapel in the Great Upper Church as well as in a mosaic in the Rosary Walk and Garden.

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