At the end of May we celebrate the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I’ve always found this feast day (which is also the Second Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary) a really fun one. One of the ways I like to look at the Feast of the Visitation is at its most simple, human level.
This is a feast day when we remember two expectant mothers who came together to celebrate their divinely heralded (and surprise) pregnancies and to share with each other their merriment and joy. How fun! It’s a beautiful testament to female bonding and female friendship—like sisters! Can you imagine what their woman-to-woman, heart-to-heart talks over those three months of visiting with each other must’ve been like? If their first words to each other are any indication, I bet there were some amazing conversations!
It was when Elizabeth was six months pregnant that the Angel Gabriel was sent to Mary in Nazareth to announce the Incarnation, the moment we celebrate on the Feast of the Annunciation (the First Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary). After the Angel Gabriel left Mary, the Bible tells us, “Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth” (Luke 1:39-40).
Why did she hurry? I imagine one of the reasons is that she was brimming over with so much excitement about what just happened to her that she just had to share it with someone she trusted (the Blessed Virgin was after all very much a woman!), someone who would understand the gravity of the event, a woman who would know something of what she was feeling. Just like two sisters or two girlfriends would do.
And Elizabeth was just the person to greet Mary’s joy and excitement. Elizabeth not only listened just as an intimate friend would, but she could also join her because she received a similar miraculous grace. Elizabeth’s response to Mary is so marvelous that we pray it as the second part of each Hail Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (The first part of the Hail Mary is, of course, the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation). Then Mary’s response back to Elizabeth is the glorious Magnificat that we pray daily in the Liturgy of the Hours, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. . .”
The Holy Spirit not only spoke through Elizabeth and Mary in that moment, but He also preserved their words in Sacred Scripture through the Gospel writers. And not only that, but He enshrined their words in the most beautiful and important of the Church’s prayers. The Feast of the Visitation is packed full of theological goodness and is a huge part of the richness and beauty of the prayers of the Church . . . and its origin is a meeting between two very happy, chatty, soon-to-be mothers! How perfect!
Copyright 2013 Gretchen Filz