May 31, 2019
A Visitation to Remember
The Spirit of God Marks It Well
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. Luke 1:39-45
You may note the date for this [minor] feast in the Orthodox calendar is only 5 days after the Annunciation on March 25. I assume it is because of the "haste" in which Mary went to see her cousin Elizabeth.
Nowadays, Christianity is said to disrespect women. Yet note that the young woman Mary, before hastening to her cousin, was overshadowed by the Power of the Most High, the Holy Spirit having come upon her, and only when she said, "Let it be to me" as the angel had said. The elderly woman, well past the age of childbearing, "was filled with the Holy Spirit." Mary is touched by the Spirit for the Incarnation. Elizabeth is divinely inspired to called Mary "blessed among women."
There are two other persons in this scene. From Elizabeth's perspective: Here comes her much, much younger cousin, who greets her. Elizabeth, now having carried John the Baptist in her womb for six months, feels the John jump at the sound of Mary's voice. Little John heard the sound of Mary's voice through the body of his mother.
Then, most remarkably, Elizabeth becomes filled with the Spirit, not through her own doing but through God's intention and presence at this meeting of the two mothers, the Incarnate God, and John his herald. She is led to call Mary "the Mother of my Lord." What did she know? Did she know before this that Mary was with child? Or the circumstances of her conception of Christ? At the very earliest stage of pregnancy the motherhood of Mary is recognized and the Lord is present. John's leap for joy at the Bridegroom in the womb is a sign of his later joy as the herald of the Christ.
The necessary salvation of the world took a step forward that day, with two pregnant mothers embracing, their children being prepared for their destined ministries. Motherhood here is a blessing, the womb a sacred place. Respect for life therein is not an oppression of women but a responsibility, a sacred trust for creation. How is killing the newly-created human a stewardship of creation?
Sadly, today, on the Feast of the Visitation, the Senate of the State of Illinois is expected to pass a new abortion law removing the remaining restrictions on abortion in the state. It would include allowing born-alive infants who survived an abortion attempt to die without life-saving health care.
The Catholic bishops of Illinois issued a statement:
... By passing Senate Bill 25, members of the Illinois House of Representatives have stripped all unborn human beings, even those viable outside the womb, of their right to be recognized as persons.
... We urge the members of the Illinois Senate to consider carefully what message a vote for this legislation sends to our people...
It's more than a message, which most people won't even get. It's the killing of innocent human beings, made in the image of God. More innocent blood cries up from the ground of the Prairie State. A different kind of visitation looms. Just when and how, God only knows. You don't increase respect for women by allowing the killing of their offspring.
In the meantime, may we join Mary and Elizabeth and John in welcoming Our Lord.
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James
James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.