I love the story of the Visitation and I meditate on it frequently, especially when I’m on the road or face an obstacle on my life’s path.
In this event I see Mary, not as a meek maiden of Nazareth, but rather as a gutsy lady who dared to grasp the task at hand in spite of her own difficulties. At that time, she was an unwed mother who could have been accused of adultry and stoned to death. If she was like most women pregnant in her first trimester, she would have been dealing with fatigue and morning sickness. Her heart must have been aching – her betrothed didn’t understand the Miracle alive inside her, and was considering divorce. On top of all that, she had to endure a dangerous journey over 70 miles of rough, bandit-ridden terrain in order to get to her elderly cousin who was in need of assistance in her final months of pregnancy and childbirth.
Why on earth does she put herself through all that?
Perhaps, I should say, why in heaven, because the reason she did it was not an earthly one, but rather a heavenly one. The Angel Gabriel informed Mary of her cousin’s predicament. That, for me, is the best part of all. He merely told her, “And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Lk 1:26) He didn’t order her to go to visit Elizabeth, he didn’t even ask her. He simply made the situation known to her, and Mary took action on her own. It was, in my estimation, a suggestion.
Mary’s response was, ““Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38) She got it immediately because she saw herself as God’s servant, his handmaiden, and was eager to do his will at even the slightest hint. What’s more, she wasn’t afraid to challenge herself and didn’t put her own concerns before that of others. She didn’t tell the angel to get somebody else to help Elizabeth, nor did she request that God bring Elizabeth to her so she didn’t have to step outside of her comfort zone (Gabriel had just told her that nothing is impossible with God). Rather, she rolled up her sleeves, packed up her donkey, and went.
That, I believe, took guts.
There are many aspects of the Visitation that we can meditate upon. The fact that St. John the Baptist leapt in St. Elizabeth’s womb when Mary approached is a strong pro-life message – the baby reacted because he was cognizant of what was going on around him. Mary’s Magnificat is a testimony to perfect instrumentality – all that we have, are, and do comes from, and belongs to, God. A barren woman becoming pregnant proves God’s goodness and mercy – nothing is impossible with God. Two cousins reaching out to each other symbolizes the importance and vitality of the family – family ties bind even across the distance. We can, and should, look at this feast day from any number of angles.
For me, the aspect that always stands out most distinctly is this:
Mary of the Visitation represents for me the person who doesn’t stop to consider, “What will it cost me to do such-and-such?” but rather the person who stops to consider, “What will it cost others if I don’t do such-and-such?”
Our Blessed Mother is one very gutsy lady. I hope, I pray, that I can be as gutsy as her in my own life.