The Visitation is a pivotal moment in the history of our Salvation. It is the first time another human being acknowledges the presence of God become Man. That recognition is made by a baby still in his mother’s womb. In the Catechism it tells us “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” John was “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.” (CCC 717). The Visitation by Our Lady to Elizabeth was not just two cousins meeting to support each other during pregnancy; this was God visiting His people.
The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that Christ obeyed the will of His Father, and He did this from the moment of conception. This links well with the Gospel as we acknowledge Mary, Elizabeth and John the Baptist as three key people who ‘carry out the will of God, each as part of the eternal plan for salvation.’1 We as, Christians are all called to fulfil a role in Salvation History; some of us have a minor role to play others more prominent, but we all have a role. Regardless of how we view our part, it is crucial for God’s plan. Each of us are called to respond, ‘Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.’
As we enter the last week of Advent, we still have time to prepare. How is our prayer life? How much time are we able to spend contemplating the Lord or reading Sacred Scriptures? How close is our relationship with Jesus as we get ready to remember His birth? I know that I need to try harder to use the time left before Christmas to get closer to Jesus; to contemplate what this Child coming into the world means for me.
The prophet Micah gave an indication of how God would turn the ideas of men upside down. ‘Bethlehem, the least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel.’ Whilst men may have expected a great warrior to come and overthrow the occupiers of Israel; God did things His way. Elevating a town which was the least to becoming a place which more than 2000 years on, is still central to our tradition and faith. A lowly child, born to a mother who was conceived before she was married, who would then have to flee for his life and live in exile. This child was to save the world; not just in the days of old, but for all eternity.
I am indebted to Sister Monica Adigwe for a reflection she provided which highlighted a new perspective for me. She observes that this visit is also the start of another form of Evangelisation, which may have gone unnoticed in terms of turning things upside down. This is a quiet, gentler form of Evangelisation. In Luke’s Gospel we hear of several forms of prophesy usually within the temple; for example, Zechariah following the naming of John, when his tongue was loosened (Lk 1:68-79), Simeon’s prophecy when he meets the baby Jesus (Lk 2:34-35) and Anna who never left the temple when she encountered Jesus at the same time as Simeon (Lk 2:38). All of these prophecies happened in the temple.
The Visitation was the start of Evangelisation at home. Something which Luke picks up again in his later works when at Pentecost the Apostles are gathered in the upper room of a private household (Acts :12 – 2:4); the conversion of the Gentiles was started in the household of Cornelius (Acts 10) and when Paul takes the faith to Europe for the first time the people met in Lydia’s household (Acts 16: 14-16). The visit of Mary to Elizabeth in Zechariah’s home, “have set in motion an irresistible chain of events, a firm paradigm of the proclamation of the word in the early church, which finds its matrix in the home.”2
How do we Evangelise in our homes today? When we have visitors, how would they know we are Christians? Am I happy with my response? These are questions we need to ask ourselves as we get ready to celebrate the Birth of Our Saviour. The Church has had many great prophets throughout the centuries, who made their voices heard in Churches, Cathedrals and on the world stage; but most of these would have initially heard about God or the seeds would have been sown by a voice at home or maybe in someone else’s home.
Everyone of us can make a difference, we might never know how we made a difference. However, we can be certain that the Holy Spirit will use each and every one of us to ‘water the seeds of faith’ which others may have sown. By sharing the love we have for Jesus in our homes, allowing people to feel comfortable, sharing God’s love by our actions we can help His Church grow; and continue the momentum started when a young pregnant girl visited her older cousin to share good news and support one another.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)3
CCC 148, 495, 717, 2676: the Visitation
CCC 462, 606-607, 2568, 2824: the Son becomes incarnate to do the Father’s will
Please keep in your prayers
- Those who are pregnant and those struggling to conceive, may God bless them with successful pregnancies; with healthy mothers and healthy babies.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
- The listening stage of the 16th Synod of Bishops which is entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” that all Catholics will take part.
- Those struggling financially; that they get the help they need and that they are careful when deciding how much to spend this Christmas. May they not be too proud to ask for the help which is available for them.
- Grateful thanks for all those who support the vulnerable in our communities.
1 Robert Draper, Breaking the Word Sundays – Pastoral Review Vol 17 Issue 4, (The Tablet Publishing Company, Twickenham, 2021)82.
2 Monica Adigwe SHCJ, Reflection on the Visitation of Mary, available from Reflection on the Visitation of Mary | Society of the Holy Child Jesus (shcj.org) accessed 18th December 2021