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The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
31 May, New Testament (Three Year Lectionary)
This major Christological feast commemorates the joyous visit Mary paid to her relative (probably her cousin) Elizabeth, following The Annunciation
. Inspired by the amazing news that she was to become the mother of the Christ and in response to the joyous word that her old and previously barren kinswoman was also pregnant, she joined Elizabeth during her sixth month of pregnancy
(see Luke 1:39-56
After Mary declared the wondrously good news, Elizabeth replied to the Virgin, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! ... Behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. (vv. 42, 44
)" She concluded by giving full credit and glory to God while also commending her young cousin's hearty faith: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. (v. 45
Mary responded with the Magnificat
, the beautiful song of praise beginning, "My soul magnifies the Lord. (vv. 46-55
)" It's not clear whether Mary stayed there until after the birth of John
or if she left immediately beforehand; Luke merely said that the Virgin "remained with her about three months and returned to her home. (v. 56
And so, as we encounter God sending the Forerunner and the Messiah into the world, we see a study in contrasts. Two women stand before each other. One seemingly too old to bear children now carries the final prophet of the Old Covenant. The other, youthful and as yet unwed — completely unprepared in the eyes of the world — carries the One who brings both the Advent and the Fulfillment of the New Testament. And again we see, in the fullness of time, one age passing away while another age begins — an age that has no end but which lasts unto eternity.
The reaction of Jesus' unborn cousin and the words of his mother also serve as reminders to many Christians about the sanctity of life. Christian pro-lifers point to John's celebration as clear evidence of the humanity and the consciousness of children who are still in utero
In Roman Catholicism, Vatican II changed the date of the observation from 2 July to 31 May in order to more accurately reflect the Bible's chronology regarding the life of Christ. Several other Western churches followed suit. In The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod
, today is celebrated in congregations following the Three Year Lectionary while the One Year Lectionary retains the July feast date.
Note: This illustration by Albrecht Dürer is from the Web Gallery of Art.
Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your regard for the poor and lowly and despised. Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and faith, and so be made one with Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name.
And His mercy is for those who fear Him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
He has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel,
in remembrance of His mercy,
as He spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.
Although the Visitation is a Christological feast, the observance of Trinity Sunday takes precedence in most liturgical calendars.