After the angel
Gabriel had announced to Mary that she was to become the mother of Our Lord,
Mary went from Galilee to Judea to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth, soon to be
the mother of John the Baptist. This visit is recorded in Luke 1:39-56.
Elizabeth greeted Mary with the words, "Blessed are you among women, and
blessed is the fruit of your womb." Mary burst forth with the song of praise
which we call the Magnificat, beginning, "My soul proclaims the greatness of
the Lord." We are told that even John the Baptist, still unborn, leaped for
joy in his mother's womb. Thus we are shown, side by side, the two women,
one seemingly too old to have a child, but destined to bear the last prophet
of the Old Covenant, of the age that was passing away; and the other woman,
seemingly not ready to have a child, but destined to bear the One Who was
Himself the beginning of the New Covenant, the age that would not pass away.
It is this meeting
that we celebrate today.
Father in heaven,
by whose grace the virgin mother of your incarnate Son was blessed in
bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping your word: Grant us who honor
the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to
your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
||Song of Songs 2:8
|The voice of my
beloved, behold he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the
hills. My beloved is like a roe, or a young hart. Behold he standeth
behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the
lattices. Behold my beloved speaketh to me:
Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. For
winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared
in our land, the time of pruning is come: the voice of the turtle is
heard in our land: The fig tree hath put forth her green figs: the vines
in flower yield their sweet smell.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come: my dove in the clefts of the
rock, in the hollow places of the wall, shew me thy face, let thy voice
sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely. Put me as
a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm.
For love is strong as death, jealousy as hard as hell, the lamps thereof
are fire and flames. Many waters cannot quench charity, neither can the
floods drown it. If a man should give all the substance of his house for
love, he shall despise it as nothing.
|A sermon by St
Bede the Venerable
|Mary proclaims the
greatness of the Lord
working in her soul
proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my
saviour. With these words Mary first acknowledges the special gifts
she has been given. Then she recalls Godís universal favours, bestowed
unceasingly on the human race.
When a man devotes all his thoughts to the praise and service of the
Lord, he proclaims Godís greatness. His observance of Godís commands,
moreover, shows that he has Godís power and greatness always at heart.
His spirit rejoices in God his saviour and delights in the mere
recollection of his creator who gives him hope for eternal salvation.
These words are often for all Godís creations, but especially for the
Mother of God. She alone was chosen, and she burned with spiritual love
for the son she so joyously conceived. Above all other saints, she alone
could truly rejoice in Jesus, her saviour, for she knew that he who was
the source of eternal salvation would be born in time in her body, in
one person both her own son and her Lord.
For the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
Mary attributes nothing to her own merits. She refers all her greatness
to the gift of the one whose essence is power and whose nature is
greatness, for he fills with greatness and strength the small and the
weak who believe in him.
She did well to add: and holy is his name, to warn those who
heard, and indeed all who would receive his words, that they must
believe and call upon his name. For they too could share in everlasting
holiness and true salvation according to the words of the prophet:
and it will come to pass, that everyone who calls on the name of the
Lord will be saved. This is the name she spoke of earlier: and my
spirit rejoices in God my saviour.
Therefore it is an excellent and fruitful custom of holy Church that we
should sing Maryís hymn at the time of evening prayer. By meditating
upon the incarnation, our devotion is kindled, and by remembering the
example of Godís Mother, we are encouraged to lead a life of virtue.
Such virtues are best achieved in the evening. We are weary after the
dayís work and worn out by our distractions. The time for rest is near,
and our minds are ready for contemplation.
The Evening of the
Visitation - Written in 1947
by Thomas Merton
Go, roads, to the four quarters of our quiet
While you, full moon, wise queen,
Begin your evening journey to the hills of heaven,
And travel no less stately in the summer sky
Than Mary, going to the house of Zachary.
The woods are silent with the sleep of
The valleys with the sleep of streams,
And all our barns are happy with peace of cattle gone to rest.
Still wakeful, in the fields, the shocks of wheat
Preach and say prayers:
You sheaves, make all your evensongs as sweet as ours,
Whose summer world, all ready for the granary and barn,
Seems to have seen, this day,
Into the secret of the Lord's Nativity.
Now at the fall of night, you shocks,
Still bend your heads like kind and humble kings
The way you did this golden morning when you saw God's
While all our windows fill and sweeten
With the mild vespers of the hay and barley.
You moon and rising stars, pour on our barns
Your gentle benedictions.
Remind us how our Mother, with far subtler and more holy
Blesses our rooves and eaves,
Our shutters, lattices and sills,
Our doors, and floors, and stairs, and rooms, and bedrooms,
Smiling by night upon her sleeping children:
O gentle Mary! Our lovely Mother in heaven!