Today is the feast of the Visitation!! The Visitation is a little paragraph in Luke’s Gospel sandwiched between the Annunciation and the Magnificat. Which are two really awesome things, so the Visitation sometimes gets skipped over. But just because the bread of a sandwich is really great, that doesn’t mean that you forget about all the yummy things in the middle!
Disclaimer: the Visitation is my favorite Bible story. (I know, this is a big claim to make. There are some pretty great bible stories. The Passion, death, and Resurrection of the Lord, the Prodigal Son, Moses and the Red Sea…) But I promise, it’s pretty great!
I love it so much because it shows the power of love in the littleness of everyday life. Most of the time, we aren’t crossing the Red Sea that God made dry for us. It is really in these little things of everyday life that we can truly grow in holiness. In the Visitation, the littleness of a happy reunion between cousins magnifies God’s love for us.
After Gabriel announces that God has favored Mary and that she is willing to conceive through the Holy Spirit, Gabriel “departed from her” (Luke 1:38). Poof. He’s gone. What’s a girl to do?
Mary doesn’t hesitate, she goes “with haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth and to spread the good news that she has conceived a son. You can so tangibly feel the joy that is present! Elizabeth, simply by Mary’s greeting and presence, becomes filled with the Holy Spirit and she proclaims: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!” (Luke 1:42).
“And who am I that the mother of My Lord should come to me?” She is astounded by the wonderful gift that has been given to her in Mary coming and bringing the Lord to her! The Word made flesh in her cousin’s womb has come to her! WHAT. Elizabeth rests in the gratitude of the goodness that God has given her. In this gratitude, Elizabeth rests in God. Augustine echoes this when he says in his Confessions, “Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy to be praised.”
Life is a complete and free gift. When we learn to say thank you, life can be conformed in gratitude to God. When we say thank you with our lives we can truly rest because, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (St Augustine). Elizabeth models a life resting in God in her gratitude. For when Mary came to her, she was not jealous that Mary had conceived by God’s miraculous work so young. For Elizabeth was much older than Mary and had struggled to conceive. The Lord had given her a son in her old age. When Mary came to her, she was not frustrated and did not ask God: Why have you given her a child so early, while I had to wait for many years to have my son?” She simply rejoiced in the goodness of God’s work and trusted in his plan. Her heart was joyful because it rested in Him.
Truly, the meaning of life is learning how to say thank you. (Yea, you read that right. I just gave you the answer to the question of the meaning of life.) When we learn to say thank you, our lives become attuned to God’s work. Pride is pushed to the side because instead of thinking that we are being fulfilled with things that we do to ourselves, we fill ourselves with God. When we are filled with God, there is no place for pride.
“Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Who am I that God should give me the gift of life? Who am I that he has given me this world to live in? Who am I that I can receive him in the Eucharist? Thank you, Lord.
This greeting of Mary and Elizabeth is an image of the heavenly union with God that He desires for us. God as Triune demonstrates that God is love because the three persons are so united in love that they are One. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth bears witness to the Trinity. Elizabeth shouts in gratitude to God the Father, reaches out and touches God in the Son in Mary’s womb, and she is filled with the Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Triune love is shown to us in their greeting.
In Mary and Elizabeth’s greeting, jealousy is forgotten. God works through the purity of their love and their hearts can rest in Him. In this test and love it truly becomes one of the happiest of days. May we be filled with God and rest in him so we, too can proclaim, “Blessed is [he] she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to [him] her by the Lord!”
About the Author
Erica Pereira is a second year Master’s in Theology student with the University of Notre Dame’s Echo program. She currently works for the Diocese of Knoxville in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. She has super curly hair, love Brazilian food, hiking in the Smokies, and rock climbing.