Feast of the Visitation
When the angel Gabriel declared to Mary that she would bear God’s son, the angel also told her that her cousin, Elizabeth, had conceived as well and was six months pregnant. “Mary set out,” writes Luke in his Gospel, “and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Lk 1:36-56).
Elizabeth exclaimed upon seeing Mary, and her child, John the Baptist, leapt in her womb. The words Elizabeth used when she recognized Mary’s role in our life of faith are remembered in the “Hail Mary” prayer: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s praise is captured in what we call the “Magnificat.” This hymn of praise to God is among the oldest hymns in the Church, and it is repeated in prayer every evening in the liturgy of the hours because it proclaims Mary’s faith in God, which is also ours.
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.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
The Visitation—this moment of greeting between the two pregnant cousins—is depicted in sculpture outside of the Eck Welcome Center on campus. Smaller versions of this sculpture also stand in chapels in Farley and Walsh Halls.
Relics from both Mary and Elizabeth rest in the reliquary chapel in the Basilica, including a piece of Elizabeth's house and a portion of clothing that Mary wore.
On this feast of the Visitation, let us join Mary and Elizabeth to proclaim the greatness of God!