Feast of the Visitation
(Celebrated 31 May)

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The Visitation - by  Domenico Ghirlandaio - from Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence . . . . . . .
The Visitation is one of the most moving gospel stories in artistic iconography - the meeting between two women
who carry within themselves two miracles: the already aged Elizabeth who through divine will conceived a son who would
be the precursor of Christ; and the young Mary, who "knew not man" and conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit.


Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out, proceeding in haste into the hill country to a town of Judah, where she entered Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby stirred in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice: "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. But who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby stirred in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord's words to her would be fulfilled."

Then Mary said:

"My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit finds joy in God my Savior,
For He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness;
all ages to come shall call me blessed
God Who is mighty has done great things for me,
holy is His name;
His mercy is from age to age
on those who fear Him.

"He has shown might with His Arm;
He has confused the proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has deposed the mighty from their thrones
and raised the lowly to high places.
The hungry He has given every good thing,
while the rich He has sent empty away.
He has upheld Israel His servant,
ever mindful of His mercy;
Even as He promised our fathers,
promised Abraham and his descendants forever

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home.

The Long Journey from Nazareth to Hebron
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Assuming that the Annunciation and the Incarnation took place about the vernal equinox, Mary left Nazareth (upper left) at the end of March and went over the mountains to Hebron (lower left), south of Jerusalem, to wait upon her cousin Elizabeth, because her presence and much more the presence of the Divine Child in her womb, according to the Will of God, was to be the source of very great graces to the Blessed John, Christ's Forerunner. The event is related in Luke 1:39-56. Feeling the presence of his Divine Savior, John, upon the arrival of Mary, leaped in the womb of his mother; he was then cleansed from original sin and filled with the grace of God. Our Lady now for the first time exercised the office which belonged to the Mother of God made man, that He might by her mediation (Mediatrix) sanctify and glorify us.

Saint Joseph probably accompanied Mary, returned to Nazareth, and when, after three months, he came again to Hebron to take his wife home, the apparition of the angel, mentioned in Matthew 1:19-25, may have taken place to end the tormenting doubts of Joseph regarding Mary's maternity.

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A myriad of Roman Roads & Caravan Routes existed between Nazareth and Hebron


A possible route which Saint Joseph and Mary might have taken is the Via Maris (Way of the Sea), an ancient Caravan Trading Route passing through Nazareth and dating from the Early Bronze Age, which linked Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. If so, it would seemingly fit-in with Mary's title of Stellar Maris (Star of the Sea).


The Visitation and the Magnificat

by Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.

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Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, Zachariah

After the Annunciation the Blessed Virgin went to visit her cousin, Saint Elizabeth. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's salutation, the child she bore leaped in her womb for joy, and she was filled with the Holy Ghost. And she cried out : 'Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. For behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.' In the light of Divine revelation Elizabeth understands that the Fruit of Mary's Womb is beginning to bless men through His mother. She knows that it is the Lord Himself Who comes to her. The Son of God comes, through His mother, to His precursor; and the precursor, through his mother, recognized the Son of God.

Saint Luke gives the Canticle of the Magnificat in the verses which follow. The context, the authority of the great majority of the best manuscripts, and the unanimous voice of the oldest and most learned Fathers [Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, etc.] all point to Mary as its author.


Canticle of the Magnificat

My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid;
for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because He that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is His name.
And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him.
He hath shewed might in His arm:
He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy:
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

Luke 1:46-55 - from the Douay Rheims Catholic Bible


What strikes one most of all in the Magnificat is its simplicity and its dignity. In substance it is a song of thanksgiving, which recalls that God is the greatness of the humble, that He lifts them up even while He casts down the pride of the mighty. Bossuet sums up well what the Fathers say about the Magnificat in his Elevations on the Mysteries, 14th week, 5th Elevation. We shall follow him in the next few pages.


God has done great things in Mary

'My soul doth glorify the Lord.' Mary leaves self, as it were, to glorify God alone and to find in Him all her joy. She is in perfect peace, for no one can take from her Him of Whom she sings.

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Virgin of the Magnificat - by Sandro Botticelli . . . .
from Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

'My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.' What Mary cannot find in herself she finds in God, Who is the Supreme Treasure. She rejoices 'because He hath rewarded the humility of His handmaid.' She does not think herself capable of attracting His gaze, for she is nothing. But He, in His goodness, has turned towards her, and now she has a sure ground for confidence --- the Divine Mercy. No longer does she fear to recognize all she has received freely from Him: rather is that a debt of gratitude to be paid. 'For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed' --- a prophecy which is still fulfilled after two thousand years with each 'Hail Mary' that men say.

And now she sees that her joy will be the joy of all men of good will: 'He that is mighty hath done great things to me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is from generation unto generation, to them that fear Him.' He Who is mighty has performed in her the greatest work of His might --- the redemptive Incarnation: He has given a Savior to the world through her, while yet leaving her virginity intact.

The Most High is Holy, is Holiness. This is all the more evident to us who believe that the Son of God, Who is also the Son of Mary, has bestowed mercy, grace and holiness on men of so many different times and nations who feared God with that childlike fear which is the beginning of wisdom, and accepted the yoke of His Commandments by grace.


God raises up the humble and through them triumphs over the pride of the mighty

To explain these wonderful effects Mary appeals to the Divine Power: 'He hath showed might in His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble.' God did all she mentions when He sent His only Son to confound the proud by the preaching of His Gospel, and to make use of the weakness of the Apostles, confessors and virgins, to bring the strength of a proud paganism to naught. His sublime mysteries He has hidden from the wise and revealed to little ones (Matthew 11:25). Mary is herself an example of what God does by the little ones. He raised her above all because she looked on herself as the least of all. The Son of God chose for His dwelling, not the rich palaces of kings, but the poverty of Bethlehem, and He manifested His power by the very weakness in which He came to exalt the little ones.

'He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away.' Jesus in His turn will say: 'Blessed are ye that hunger now, for you shall be filled . . . Woe to you that are filled, for you shall hunger' (Luke 6:21 & 25). In Bossuet's words, it is when the soul sees the glory of the world in ruins, and God alone great, that it finds peace.

The Magnificat concludes as it began, with thanksgiving: 'He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy: As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.' We should make our own the words of Saint Ambrose: 'Let Mary's soul be in us to glorify the Lord; let her spirit be in us that we may rejoice in God our Savior.' 

May His Kingdom come in us through the accomplishment of His Will.