Catholic Activity: The Visitation
Reflections by Mary Reed Newland on the Feast of the Visitation.
And she "rose up and went with haste" to visit her cousin in the hill country. She probably rode a donkey there in the company of a caravan. I wish St. Luke had not been so sparing with words, especially when he tells of her arrival. All he says is that she entered the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth. If we only knew what she said. It was probably some Hebrew custom, some form of asking a blessing on the house and its occupants; but try as I might, the only thing I can ever imagine is that she called out: "Elizabeth dear, are you home?"
"And it came to pass, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe in her womb leapt. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out with a loud voice, saying: 'Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, the moment the sound of thy greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leapt for joy. . . .'"
Father Bruckberger tells in his Mary Magdalene of a little church in southern France where there is a painting of the Visitation, and in it the painter has fashioned a little window in the garments of Elizabeth through which we may see the tiny unborn John, "sitting as though in an armchair, full of enthusiasm and playing a violin." John's first greeting to Jesus. . . . Our smaller children will explain, when it is their turn to do the Second Joyful Mystery, "St. John jumped for joy inside his mother." It was the moment of his sanctification, being cleansed of original sin by the Holy Spirit; and right after it came Mary's Magnificat. No wonder he leaped for joy. The world should have leaped for joy.
"And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her own house."
No one is sure, they say, if she stayed for the birth of St. John. I am amazed. So is every mother I know. Let the scholars haggle over it if they will; of course she stayed. Elizabeth was old, she had never carried a child before. What else but Mary's concern would move her to rush to her side like that? Elizabeth would be urged to rest while Mary cooked the meals, fed the chickens (if there were chickens), tended to the little labors of that quiet household. And in the evenings after prayer two such women would sit and ponder the promise God had made to save the world. And there is this to remember (then you know she stayed): this child who was expected was to go before the path of her own Son, and prepare His ways. With all her heart Mary would have wanted to see and assist at his birth.
Elizabeth brought forth her son, St. Luke says, to the delight of her family and neighbors, and announced on the day of his circumcision that he would be called John. What? protested her friends and relatives, John! No one in the family was named John. Far better to name him for his father, Zachary. Quite sure Zachary would want precisely that, they made signs to him to make his wishes known. Zachary asked for a writing tablet. On it he wrote the words: "John is his name" — and immediately was able to speak. Such a fear came on the neighbors that they whispered about all the hill country: "What then will this child be?"
Well they might ask. Those who stayed to hear Zachary's canticle should have guessed, for in it he said: "And thou, child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give His people knowledge of salvation through forgiveness of their sins. . . ."
Activity Source: Year and Our Children, The by Mary Reed Newland, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York, 1956