Praying with Mary through May: Celebrating the Visitation

Throughout the month of May, we will be sharing posts focused on journeying alongside the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Share your experiences in the comments or on social media using #praywithmary.

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The church celebrates the Feast of the Visitation on May 31, bringing to a conclusion the month devoted to our Blessed Mother. The account of Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth from Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-56) is reflected upon by Catholics in  the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, and I number it as one of my favorite scriptural accounts. Here are seven lessons the actions of Mary and Elizabeth in the Visitation have taught me.

1.Put a little pep in your step. 

Luke’s account of the Visitation opens with the following line: “During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste…” (Luke 1:39). The phrase that always jumps off the page at me is “in haste”. Mary went in haste to be of service to her cousin, Elizabeth, whom she had just found out was pregnant in her old age.

Let’s consider a few things here: First, Mary is pregnant. Second, she didn’t jump in her SUV, stop at Dunkin Donuts for an Iced Coffee on the way and arrive a few hours later. More than likely she walked….over the hills….for hours, if not days. Third, Mary is pregnant. Ooops, I said that already….might be because I never did anything in haste when I was pregnant. In actuality, I don’t do much in haste when I am not pregnant.

What is the lesson here? Mary was ready and willing to quickly provide service someone in need. She hopped right to it. She didn’t agonize over it, check her calendar, weigh the pros and cons, or pause to consider what might be in it for her – she went in haste to help. It’s a lesson that I, for one, am not learning in haste. Each time I hear this scripture I am more and more convicted that my attitude towards helping others needs to be far more like Mary’s and for that to happen, I need to ask the Lord to fill me with the Holy Spirit, just like Mary was.

2. Service requires sacrifice.

We live in an instant-gratification culture. Watching the microwave tick down the last 30 seconds of cooking the four minute frozen dinner, often leaves me impatiently tapping my fingers on the counter. Yet, most things in life don’t happen in an instant -and people’s real needs are rarely met in the span of a 20 minute sitcom.St. Luke tells us that Mary’s visit to Elizabeth lasted for three months. (Luke 1:56) Mary was willing to make the sacrifice necessary to help meet Elizabeth’s needs. True Christian service requires a heart open to sacrifice and an attitude of putting other’s needs before our own.

Becoming a Mom for the first time drove home this lesson with me. The nine months of of pregnancy required a self-sacrificing patience like few other experiences in my life before or since (with the possible exception of potty-training). No matter how much I desired to rush the process, the child in my womb required my constant, day-in, day-out sacrifice in ways that I had never though possible. Like Elizabeth, my pregnancy also found me needing  the service of others to assist me in performing the tasks that my growing belly left me unable to do on my own. This experience of both giving and receiving long-term sacrificial service led me to see the blessings of a life lived for others, a life like Mary’s.

3. The Holy Spirit helps us recognize Jesus.

The scriptures tell us: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:41-43)Because Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, she was able to recognize the presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary and proclaim those beautiful words that we recite in every Hail Mary. St. Paul tells us “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3) It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to recognize the Lord Jesus, even when he is hidden from our senses, as he was from Elizabeth. We must daily ask the Holy Spirit to fill us, as he filled her, so that we too are able to recognize Jesus in others whom we meet.

4. There is joy in encountering the Lord.

It is an unmistakable feeling when your unborn child makes a sudden move in your womb. For me, it was just a delight to feel my babies flip, dance and kick inside of me. I wondered what caused these movements – what were they thinking or sensing from me inside the darkness of the womb. Luke tells us that John the Baptist “leaped for joy” in Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice (Luke 1:44).Pope John Paul II calls the mystery of the Visitation a “mystery of joy”. He says:

“But what is the mysterious, concealed source of such joy? It is Jesus. Mary had already conceived Him through the work of the Holy Spirit and He is now beginning to defeat what is at the root of fear, of anxiety, of sadness – sin, the most humiliating slavery for man.”

Let us pray with expectant faith that in all of our encounters with the Lord Jesus, whether in prayer, in the sacraments or in the love of another, we many feel the joy that the unborn John the Baptist felt!

5. Trust in the Lord bears fruit.

Elizabeth honors Mary’s trust in God with the following words: Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45) Mary bore Jesus, the fruit of her womb, because she radically trusted God. We, too, are called to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God in our lives – fruit which can only be borne if we live out Mary-like trust.Proverbs 3:5 challenges us to “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart; on your own intelligence do not rely.” Like Mary, we may not know all the details of the mission the Lord is asking us to do. We may wonder what the future will hold for us if we follow God’s ways and surrender fully to his will in our lives. It is in moments of questioning, or fighting off the temptation to “rely on our own intelligence” that we should call upon our Blessed Mother for her intercession, so that we too can“bear fruit that will last.” (John 15:16) 

6. The glory belongs to the Lord.

How does Mary respond to Elizabeth’s unconventional greeting? In humility, she directs all the glory to God. In opening lines of the Magnificat, one of the most beautiful songs of praise and glory to God, she declares:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,my spirit rejoices in God my savior.For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.The Mighty One has done great things for me,and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)

Perhaps the greatest lesson of the mystery of the Visitation is that the glory for all the blessings and good things in our lives belongs rightfully to the Lord. It is a good practice, and one that I am slowly incorporating into my daily prayer life, to have a “gratitude journal” – a notebook to log the many blessings the Lord showers upon us every day. Taking time to “proclaim the greatness of the Lord” shifts our focus off ourselves and off the less joyful moments of the day, and places our attention on the Lord and all the great things he has done for us. It is a way to live out the mystery of the Visitation each day.

7. The Visitation is ongoing.

Like all the mysteries of the Rosary (indeed the whole of scriptures) there is an ongoing aspect to our meditations. We are not simply reflecting on an event of the past, but rather entering into a living Word. Through our meditations, we pray for the grace to grow in imitation of what we are reading; to more and more fully incorporate the mystery into our daily lives. This is an on-going process, and one that will take our entire lives to unfold.

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This post was originally published by Debbie on Saints365.

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