Zeph. 3:14-18/Rom 12:9-16; Luke 1:39-56
Mary Visits Elizabeth
Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Assuming that after Annunciation took place on March 25 Mary left Nazareth and went to visit her cousin Elizabeth because her presence and much more the presence of Jesus in her womb, according to the will of God, was to be the source of very great graces to St. John, His Forerunner. St. Elizabeth was six-month pregnant and needed Mary’s attention, help, service and care since she was already in her old age. Mary’s mind was still attuned to helping others and putting into practice, even if it was not yet written, the words of St. Paul: “Your move must be sincere….Anticipate each other in showing respect….look on the needs of the saints as your own; be generous in offering hospitality.”
This feast was originally celebrated by the Franciscans, upon the advice of St. Bonaventure on July 2, since 1263. But this feast was not extended to the entire Church until 1389. It was transferred to May 31 as a product of logical thinking and putting this feast between the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25) and the Birth of St. John the Baptist (June 24), so as to conform to the gospel.
This feast was officially instituted on November 9, 1389 when Pope Boniface IX decreed that the Feast of the Visitation should be extended to the entire Catholic Church in the hope that Jesus and His Mother would visit the Church and put an end to the Great Schism that was taking place.
This Schism was known as the “Western Schism.” The New Catholic Dictionary (Van Rees Press, NY, Copyright 1929) reported the “Western Schism as follows: “The cause of the so-called Western Schism was the temporary residence of the popes at Avignon, France, which began in 1309 under Clement V. This exile from the Eternal City met with opposition, especially in Italy where the people clamoured for the return of the sovereign pontiff. Finally in 1376 Gregory XI re-established his see in Rome, and on his death, 1378, the future residence of the vicars of Christ was the main issue in the subsequent conclave. The cardinals meeting in the Holy City duly elected Urban VI, an Italian. General dissatisfaction, especially on the part of the French members of the Sacred College, and disagreement concerning the validity of the choice led to a second conclave at Fondi (20 Sept.) and the election of another pope, a Frenchman, as Clement VII, who immediately took up his residence in Avignon. Both claimed to be legitimate successors, the Western Church quickly divided into two camps and each supporting one or the other.
“There was really no schism, for the majority of the people desired unity under one head and intended no revolt against papal authority. Everywhere the faithful faced the anxious problem: where is the true pope? Even saints and theologians were divided on the question. Unfortunately, led by politics and human desires, the papal claimants launched excommunications against each other, and deposed secular rulers who in turn forbade their subjects to submit to them. This misunderstanding lasted forty years (1378- 1417). An attempt to mend the breach at the Council of Pisa (1409) produced a third claimant and the schism was not terminated until the Council of Constance (1414-18), which deposed the Pisan, John XXIII, received the abdication of the Roman, Gregory XII, dismissed the Avignon Benedict XIII, and finally elected an undisputed pope, Martin V (11 Nov., 1417).”
As we reflect on Mary’s visitation to intercede for us with her Son Jesus, so that we might imitate her in our gratitude for the tremendous gift of God’s love, presence, loving providence, and call to communion with Him in this life and in the next. As somebody said that through Mary’s intercession, may we be open for the outpouring of the grace God so ardently desires to give us and joyfully proclaim to the whole world: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”
We can recognize a missionary dimension in this Feast of Visitation, Fr. Carlos Lariosa, SVD (Bible Diary, May 31, 2002) reflected. He continued to say that when we realize that gift of God in us, we feel a deep and overflowing joy. The next move is to share it with others. It is in this sharing that we experience more of the mystery of God’s goodness and we will automatically utter praises to the Lord while our hearts experience the fullness of joy.
Visitation is reminding us too of the corporal works of mercy that the Church calls to do like: visiting the sick, the prisoners and those that need us. This Visitation entails us to being hospitable and welcoming to those in need. To be hospitable, Arnold H. Glasow says is to make you feel at home. Others make you wish you were.
As we continue celebrating the Holy Mass, let us ask Jesus and His Mother to continue visiting the Catholic Church so that it may bloom as an aromatic flower for the glory of God.
See Today’s Readings: Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
OPTION 01, 02, 03,