Joy is perhaps the one word that best describes the Visitation of Our Blessed Lady to her cousin Elizabeth.
No sooner has the angel Gabriel left Our Lady, than she leaves, not in a leisurely way, but with haste, to be with her cousin. Her immediate response to all Gabriel has told her is indicative of why God chooses her to be the Mother of the Messiah in the first place, it is her deep and genuine humility. She leaves in haste because her humble heart is the heart of a servant, and from that truly humble heart, comes joy.
As Elizabeth speaks these words to Our Lady Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me, Our Lady responds with the beautiful words of the Magnificat:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid; for behold henceforth all generations will call me blessed because He Who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name; and His Mercy is from generation to generation to those who fear Him. He has shown might with His Arm, He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has given help to Israel, His servant, mindful of His mercy – even as He Spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)
It is a reply of authentic humility and joy. Our Lady recognizes who she is before God, and the result of her recognition of God’s pre-eminence, is joy, a joy of immense proportions, a joy so deep it cannot be contained.
In the second reading from today’s Office of Readings, Saint Bede the Venerable says this:
“When a man devotes all his thoughts to the praise and service of the Lord, he proclaims God’s greatness. His observance of God’s commands, moreover, shows that he has God’s power and greatness always at heart. His spirit rejoices in God his savior and delights in the mere recollection of his Creator who gives him hope for eternal salvation…”
Overriding joy encompasses the hearts of those assembled that day in the house of Zechariah – from the heart of John who rests in the womb of his mother, to Elizabeth who feels the leap of recognition from her son, articulating the wonder of God’s grace, and to Our Lady, who marvels at the greatness of her God, Who chose her to be the Mother of His Son.
Let us follow Our Lady in her humility and joy, for by her example we can know that God is not limited by anything except our ‘yes’ to him, and only then because He chooses it to be so.
May we rejoice in this beautiful feast and thank Our Lady for her joyful ‘yes’!