Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Rom 12:9-16; Is 12:2-6; Lk 1:39-56

“His glorious achievement”

What is the LORD’s glorious achievement? The Theotokos, the Virgin Mother of God, is the LORD’s glorious achievement. In her is the great and Holy One of Israel; in her womb is the Savior long expected. God himself is the savior; we have nothing to fear. Our strength and our courage is the LORD, Our Savior. The deep and cool waters from the well of salvation bring joy to our flesh and to our spirit. His Name, LORD, is worthy of all thanks, and all acclaim because he has done mighty deeds among us. Right out loud and in the midst of the crowd of nations, we stand up to make known his mighty deeds and to proclaim how exalted is His Name. We join with Saint Elizabeth, Saint Luke, and all the saints to bless the One who trusted the LORD’s word to her, and with the Blessed Virgin Mary we too magnify the LORD. In the Immaculate and Blessed Theotokos we are introduced to the glorious achievement of the incarnation of the Eternal Word. She is a glorious achievement because she is hospitable to God. In her grace-filled response to the Archangel, the Blessed Virgin Mary became a model for all who entertain the divine, for all who pray—seriously and faithfully. Indeed, the old and new, City of Zion shouts with exultation for here and now in our midst is the Holy One of Israel. Indeed, it is the Theotokos, the God-Bearer, herself who summons us to rejoice and be glad even in the midst of our suffering. When our hearts remember and our minds behold the glorious achievement of the incarnation, we come close to Jesus through Mary. Indeed, the God-Bearer, still bears the Word Made Flesh for the salvation of all people.

The Incarnation reveals the true nature and purpose of God in human history. It also reveals who we are. We are brothers and sisters. Saint Paul teaches his Church in Rome to be sure that their love is sincere. These brothers and sisters are to hate what is evil without hating evildoers. Their love for each other must be sincere, not at all feigned or put on to achieve alliance with those in power. Mutual affection inspires everyone to compete for only one thing, showing honor to the other brother or sister, friend or stranger. Because we serve the LORD, we have the energy we need to be zealous and fervent as we serve the Lord. We are to rejoice in the hope of salvation even as Elizabeth rejoiced with the pregnant Virgin Mary. We are to endure in affliction whenever we are condemned for doing the will of the LORD. At all times we are called to persevere in prayer for the intentions of everyone the Lord has brought into our lives. Saint Elizabeth and Saint Mary contributed to the needs of the community and they exercised mutual hospitality. With this kind support and community we can bless those who persecute us, we must bless and not curse. We rejoice with all who rejoice in their unexpected pregnancies, and weep with those who weep over their unexpected pregnancies. Our compassionate regard for each other must be that same regard we have for strangers, potential brothers and sisters. We can never put ourselves above anyone. We must not be elitist and refuse to associate with those lower than we are in social standing. Finally, it is true wisdom to not consider yourself wise, but rather to seek the wisdom of all who come under our roof, just as Saint Elizabeth sought the wisdom of the the Theotokos. It is this kind of life style that will reveal to the world the glorious achievement of the LORD God, in our lives.

Because it is the thirty-first of May it is the Feast of the Visitation, a mystery we ponder daily in the second Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary. This gospel journey for the Mother of God is a direct result of the Archangel’s visit to her. The Annunciation contains the first part of the Hail Mary, and the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth contains the second part of the Hail Mary. The church’s intercession at the end of these two biblical reflections is taken from the church’s reflection upon the mystery and motherhood of the Blessed Virgin, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” This doctrine is enshrined in the Council of Ephesus (431AD). Indeed, the test of orthodoxy at this time in our turbulent history was that those who proclaimed and praised the full humanity and full divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ called Mary, “Mother of God”. Today’s gospel is repeated so frequently in the Hail Mary, and it is sung at each evening at Vespers. The Magnificat is the evening gospel of the church’s daily prayer. With all this remembering and reflecting of this text from Saint Luke, so many memories arise when we hear this gospel proclaimed at today’s liturgy. Indeed, these feelings of tender connection with Elizabeth and Mary and the treasure of revelation contained herein are enormous. These two women of faith are caught up in the spirit of prophecy and in their tender greeting they foreshadow the ministry of the infant Saint John the Baptist. He too will be filled with the Holy Spirit and cry aloud the blessedness of the God who comes to dwell among us, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Such prophecy will enable human hearts in every generation to give true praise to the God of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the God of Mary and Joseph, and the God of John and Jesus. Indeed, this visit full of tenderness is also full of anticipation. These two prophetic women share in the joy of mothers who see the greatness of their sons, and share in the sorrow of mothers who loose their sons to unjust condemnation and violent death. The great things that the Almighty has done for Saint Elizabeth and the Theotokos are to be fully appreciated only after years of history and centuries of reflection. Indeed, the continued prayer of the entire church is necessary to process this simple visit of tender service and prophetic praise. Indeed, the great things, the glorious achievement, of the LORD in these humble women still unfolds in those humble enough to pray the Hail Mary and sing the Magnificat.