Luke 1:39-56, Feast of the Visitation
Among all the Marian feasts, today is the most ordinary, the least miraculous. There are no angels intruding into quiet spaces; no bodies ascending from earth to heaven. What we see is just two women coming to meet, to talk, to share their joy. Yet, the church chooses to mark this ordinary visitation as a feast.
But just as the child Baptist leapt for joy deep within the womb of Elizabeth, the extraordinary can be found if we look deeper into this ordinary visitation. After all, we see not merely the meeting of two women; we see two impossible pregnancies — a barren, elderly woman and a young virgin have conceived a child. Thus, today’s feast happens separated, removed just a little in time and space, from two miracles. We see two women in the afterglow of divine visitations.
Perhaps as we celebrate our feast today, as we fix our gaze on the two miracles of Elizabeth and Mary, we recall that all of our lives are lived separated, removed just a little in time and space, from two miracles: of coming into existence from nothingness and of remaining in love into eternity beyond death. We remember the miracle of birth and we hope for the miracle of eternal life. And this can happen simply because God blesses us. We have life, that we exist at all, that we do not fade into insignificance, is sheer grace and gift. Our feast today helps us remember and retrieve the joy of being blessed with life and love.
Though most of that life seems all too ordinary, our feast reminds us of the extraordinary significance that lies within it. And it tells us what we ought to do as one whose lives are separated just a little from those miracles: we are to share our joy through the simple practices of visiting one another, of affirming the value of the life of God that grows within each of us, of exulting in the glory of God. This feast helps us understand human visitations as participating in divine ones.
Indeed, we are able to do all of this because it is God who has visited us first. As our first reading from Zephaniah reminds us, the effects of that divine visitation never leaves us, not even in the long night of exile: the Lord your God is in your midst. God’s visitation is enduring, everlasting. And even before Mary’s Magnificat expresses with poetic wonder all that God has done for her, our first reading reminds us that it was God who first sung a Magnificat in exultation for us:
He will exult with joy over you,
he will renew you by his love;
he will dance with shouts of joy for you
as on a day of festival.
Image from the Internet