After the salutation of the Archangel Gabriel, the Incarnate Word was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the prayerful silence that enshrouded the humble dwelling when the angel departed, Mary gradually emerged from her ecstasy.
With the delightful simplicity which gives her perfect beauty such a poignant charm, she returned to the routine of ordinary life. She told no one—not even Saint Joseph—about the marvels the Holy Ghost had worked within her.
Having learned of the expectant hope of her cousin Elizabeth, Mary felt a strong desire to visit her. In the opinion of most approved commentators, she spent a few more days in Nazareth before departing.
March was drawing to a close and the solemn feast of Passover was quickly approaching. She probably waited until the holy days in order to travel to Jerusalem with Saint Joseph.
When they had fulfilled their religious duties, Mary set off for the city of Hebron where Zachary lived. It seems improbable that Saint Joseph accompanied her in this second part of the journey. If he had, he would not have been ignorant several months later regarding the divine secret of his holy spouse.
Meanwhile, the Immaculate Virgin arrived at her cousin’s house where the Visitation, faithfully recorded by Saint Luke, took place. This mystery, so valuable for our piety, helps us understand Our Lady’s virtues and her role in the sanctification of our souls.
The Evangelist shows Mary hurriedly climbing the mountain road toward Hebron. “And Mary, rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth.”
Reasons of a higher order had moved the Virgin to undertake this journey. Elizabeth and her husband enjoyed a higher social status. They were highly regarded in the region, and Providence had abundantly blessed them with the fruits of the earth. In their prosperity they had not forgotten their poorer relatives, Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, who had done many favors for them. Many years earlier Zachary’s influence had undoubtedly contributed greatly to Mary’s admission among the children raised in the Temple at Jerusalem. Hence, the fair-hearted Virgin wished to manifest her affectionate gratitude to her generous relatives. She wanted to pay Elizabeth the kindest and tenderest attention, for she to whom God had miraculously granted a child was already advanced in age and had been barren for many years. The Virgin’s ever-attentive charity made her joyfully sacrifice her own rest and divine consolation. Would it not have been better, however, for Our Lady to remain quietly within her peaceful retreat, her small room in Nazareth, glowing still with the memory of the Annunciation? Would she not have found there more sweetness in praying to the Incarnate Word, really present within her? Certainly, but she did not think selfishly of herself.
When Jesus enters a heart, He inspires it with love of neighbor. “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another,” He said at the Last Supper, “as I have loved you. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another…. Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” The lessons of this mystery are legion. We must be attentive to the needs of those around us and share generously with the poor. Our souls must be moved at the sight of the suffering who cry out to us. We must let blossom the goodness planted in our hearts by our Heavenly Father, the divine flower of the Christian life. Our hearts must not harden. If we do not follow these lessons, we should tremble before the Almighty! We are not the disciples of Him who gave His blood to the last drop, nor will the charitable Virgin of the Visitation regard us as her children!
At last, then, Mary reached her destination. Consider the meeting of these two women: one wealthy, yet the spouse of a merely mortal man; the other undoubtedly poor, yet the Spouse of the Holy Ghost and the Mother of God. What does the Immaculate Virgin do when she reaches her cousin Elizabeth’s home? We are already familiar with the incredible humility of her youth. At the Temple, she considered herself the lowliest of all. Events have now changed entirely! Our Lady carries the eternal Son of the Father within her. She is not oblivious to the great honor such sublime motherhood confers on her. Conscious of her glory, does Mary expect to see her cousin render her honors upon her arrival? Certainly not! Rather, she rushes forward to greet her cousin. With modest grace and delightful spontaneity, she bows before her cousin, embracing her with effusive and tenderest respect.
Elizabeth, however, is inspired by God and greets her cousin by prostrating before her and crying out in admiration: “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mary can no longer conceal her secret, already revealed by Heaven. She bursts forth in her admirable canticle of acknowledgment, her Magnificat: “My soul doth magnify the Lord; and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid, for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. He that is mighty hath done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is from generation unto generation to them that fear Him. He hath showed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.” Indeed, the more she glorifies the Most High, the more deeply does she engulf herself in the abyss of her nothingness.
This is an important lesson: God grants us favors in the measure that we humble ourselves in His presence. The Holy Ghost does not deposit His gifts in hearts full of self-love.
The visit of the Blessed Virgin caused an abundance of graces to descend upon the blessed home of Elizabeth and Zachary. In first place, the prophecy of the angel was fulfilled. Saint Gabriel had appeared to Zachary as he offered incense in the Holy of Holies, announcing the birth of John the Baptist and adding that the child would be sanctified while still in his mother’s womb! In fact, Mary had only to embrace her cousin Elizabeth for the presence of the Lord within her to purify the soul of His precursor.
Our Lady’s role consists in distributing the graces merited by the precious blood of her divine Son. She refuses them to none, for the Savior died on the Cross for all men. But she grants them with greater abundance to the souls who love her with special filial tenderness.
Perhaps you sense the fragility of our wretched human nature. Perhaps, despite your sincere desire to serve God, you commit serious sins. Do not become disheartened in such painful moments; direct your profound cry of distress to Mary and appeal for her help. Pray to her with all your faith and fervor. She will obtain for you the strength to lead a pure life. If a habitual sinner who seems to have one foot in Hell would but beg the Blessed Virgin with perseverance to lift him from his miserable state, his prayer would surely be granted.
Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, then, brought lights from on high, so that Elizabeth knew through revelation the mystery of the Incarnation. You learned your catechism. You know Our Lord. Yet this supernatural understanding has such little influence over your life! Perhaps it even leaves you indifferent and cold! Beg the Immaculate Virgin to help you better understand Christ’s abundant love for us. In His infinite tenderness, Our Lord never stops thinking of you, waiting for you at all hours of the day and night in His tabernacle. His adorable heart loved you to the utmost folly of the Cross, and is burning with infinite charity for you. He ardently desires to fill you with His most precious gifts. Jesus wishes you to approach Him with trust—complete trust. Ask Our Lady for the grace to know the Savior better. Indeed, her special mission is to lead souls to Jesus.
Finally, the visit of Mary brought treasures of joy. “For behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” God created us for eternal bliss. That is why we carry an unquenchable thirst for happiness within us. Alas! Many think they have found happiness in forbidden pleasures. How far they have strayed! Sin bears the fruit of death, leaving only remorse and disgust in its wake.
Others seek legitimate, but purely human, satisfaction outside Our Lord. Human love can distract us for a moment, but in the end it makes us suffer because it cannot satisfy the void in our souls. True joy is found in hearts that give themselves entirely to Christ.
O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of holy joy, grant our souls, thirsting for happiness, the indescribable joys of Divine Love.