Since the day of the Annunciation, Mary was a living tabernacle. The Saviour of the world surveyed His work from the hiddenness of His abode. Even now, He longed to be active, to save and sanctify souls, but for the present, He could do it only through the co-operation of His holy Mother. But His love also burns in Mary's heart and soon it sends forth its first rays into the world. The Archangel had mentioned to Mary the condition of her kinswoman, Elizabeth; this now furnishes the occasion.
For the first time in the history of the chosen people the true Ark of the Covenant, harbouring within her bosom David's greatest Son and promised Messiah, moves on the highways of Palestine from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah on her way to Elizabeth. She enters the house with a greeting of peace; what else could it be, since she bore within herself the Prince of peace. He had come to give peace to all men of good will. Such a greeting on the lips of Mary is a prayer and Mary's prayers are always heard. Elizabeth in consequence is filled with the Holy Spirit and in His light recognizes the dignity of the Mother of God, feels the sanctifying power of Mary's yet unborn Child as her own offspring leaps with joy in her womb at the sound of Mary's voice. Filled with holy joy she exclaims, "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? For, behold, as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in my ears, the Infant in my womb leaped with joy. And blessed are you that have believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to you by the Lord." Mary, blessed among all women, cannot but agree. Her heart is overflowing with grateful joy as she breaks forth into her Magnificat of praise and thanksgiving (‘My soul, it Magnifies the Lord'). Her soul must praise the Lord, her mind rejoice in her Saviour. God has chosen her, the humble maid of Nazareth, and done great things to her, so that all generations shall call her blessed. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly, has filled the hungry with good things and the rich He has sent away empty. He has fulfilled the promises made to the fathers of old and sent the long-expected Messiah. And Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months (Luke 1:39-56).
In the House of Elizabeth
For three months, the house of Elizabeth presents us with in example of the most appealing charity on the part of Mary. Charity acts through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; both were practised by the blessed Mother of God, but especially the latter. Notwithstanding the great hardships which a journey in those days meant, Mary resolutely set out on her way and then gave her kinswoman all the assistance she needed during the remaining weeks of her expectancy.
Greater yet was the spiritual assistance Mary rendered Elizabeth. She knew herself to be the Mother of Christ and through her Divine Son wished to contribute to the sanctification of the world, first of all, to that of the holy precursor of Jesus. She wished to have others to share in her happiness and with her praise, and give thanks to God for the great mystery He had wrought in her. In her humility, however, she could not bring herself to speak about it; in fact, she had not mentioned it in the beginning even to Saint Joseph. But here with Elizabeth she was in the presence of a chosen soul, illumined by the Holy Spirit Himself as to what had happened, and so she could speak freely. Through the words of Elizabeth she had learned of the effect of her visit on the latter's child. If such was the effect of her first meeting with Elizabeth, the spiritual favours bestowed upon the latter and her child must have increased immeasurably during the three months of her sojourn. Intense gratitude filled the hearts of these two women, and Mary spoke also the mind of Elizabeth when in the Magnificat she poured out the sentiments of her grateful love. May we not suppose that it was the daily prayer of Mary and Elizabeth, and that it made the latter's home a sanctuary of piety, of peace, and holy joy? In such an atmosphere, the members of the household could not but daily grow in virtue and holiness.
Giving Christ to the Poor
We, too, bear God within us and it is through our cooperation that Jesus desires to save and sanctify souls. The manner of doing it, suggested by the mystery of the Visitation, is that of humble and loving service rendered to our fellow-men, for the sake of Christ. All around us are the poor, the distressed, the sick, the ignorant, the wayward, and forsaken; there is an immense field for the practice of the corporal as well as the spiritual works of mercy. But there is only one that can really and truly alleviate the sorrows of the heart and heal the wounds of the soul, and that is Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Christian charity must have for its ultimate end to bring Christ into the lives of our fellow-men, relatives, acquaintances, friends, and companions. Have we seriously tried to do this? Do we speak of Him to those in sorrow? Do we invite them, take them with us to Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist? Could we not by word and example encourage more frequent attendance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and reception of Holy Communion? In the Blessed Eucharist, Jesus Himself will act as the Good Samaritan; He will grant forgiveness of sin, strength and patience, peace, such as the world cannot give. Are we willing to take upon ourselves hardships in the practice of charity as Mary did in the mystery of the Visitation? Loving with the love of Christ and for the sake of Christ makes us generous.
The mystery also contains a very practical lesson for expectant mothers. The greatest act of charity they can do to their as yet unborn child is to take it into the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist, especially through the reception of Holy Communion.
Indeed every act by which we prevent sin in our fellow-men, bring them closer to God and inspire them with a greater love of virtue, is an act of charity. Saint Paul calls our attention to the well-nigh innumerable ways and manners in which such charity can be practised, and often with so much more effectiveness the less the act is recognized as such, and the more humble and inconspicuous it is. It is a wide field for the practice of charity to which the Apostle calls our attention when he writes, "Charity is patient, is kind; charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self-seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil, does not rejoice over wickedness, but rejoices with the truth; it bears with all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinth 13:4-7).
We were redeemed because God loved us, and it is our greatest privilege, through the practice of charity, to co-operate in the salvation and sanctification of souls. Our Blessed Mother gives the example. The rosary leads to the practice of charity and through charity to Jesus, in Whom alone there is salvation.
- from , by Father Aloysius Biskupek, S.V.D.