31 May 2010

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

31 MAY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. From today's Gospel reading from the Gospel of Saint Luke, we hear of Mary's journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and the immortal words of Elizabeth's greeting:
Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.
(Lk 1, 39-56)

Today's feast originated with the Franciscan Order in the medieval period. Originally, the feast was recommended by Saint Bonaventure, after which it was adopted and spread by Franciscan religious throughout Europe. In A.D. 1389, Pope Urban VI, as a part of his efforts to end the Great Western Schism, inserted the feast on the General Roman Calendar and assigned it to the date of 2 July. Today's feast continued to be celebrated on 2 July, until A.D. 1969 when Pope Paul VI moved it to today's date--31 May--to harmonize better with the Gospel account by falling between the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (25 March) and the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist (24 June).

I pray that all of us today, in our commemoration of this feast, will also keep hearts that leap for joy at the sound of Mary's greeting to us, her children on earth, beckoning us to draw closer to Her immaculate heart and the Sacred Heart of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

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