31st May. The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
First Reading: Isaiah 12:2-6
(A hymn of joy to God my Saviour.)
Surely God is my salvation; I trust, and shall not fear. For the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Gospel: Luke 1:39-56
(The Visitation to Elisabeth, culminating in Mary’s Magnificat.)
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
Rejoicing in God our Saviour
The Visitation of Our Lady to Saint Elizabeth is celebrated in this modified homily-excerpt from the Venerable Bede (early 8th century; CCL 122, 25-26, 30), used in the Divine Office of Readings for May 31st. He explains why the Magnificat is used in the church’s prayer.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” With these words Mary first acknowledges the special gifts she has been given. Then she recalls God’s universal favours, bestowed unceasingly on the human race. When we devote all our thoughts to the praise and service of the Lord, we proclaim God’s greatness. Our observance of God’s commands, too, shows that we have God’s power and greatness always at heart. Our spirit rejoices in God our saviour and delights in the mere recollection of his creator who gives us hope for eternal salvation.
“Rejoicing in God my Saviour”..These words can apply to all of God’s creations, but apply especially to the Mother of God. She alone was chosen for that honour , and she burned with spiritual love for the son she so joyously conceived. Above all other saints, she alone could truly rejoice in Jesus, her saviour, for she knew that he who was the source of eternal salvation would be born in time in her body, in one person both her own son and her Lord.
“The Almighty has done great things for me.” Mary attributes nothing to her own merits. She refers all her greatness to the gift of the one whose essence is power and whose nature is greatness, for he fills with greatness and strength the small and the weak who believe in him. And she did well to add: “holy is his name,” to warn those who heard, and indeed all who would receive his words, that they must believe and call upon his name. For they too could share in everlasting holiness and true salvation according to the words of the prophet: “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Therefore it is an excellent and fruitful custom of holy church that we should sing Mary’s hymn at the time of evening prayer. By meditating upon the incarnation, our devotion is kindled, and by remembering the example of God’s Mother, we are encouraged to lead a life of virtue. Such virtues are best achieved in the evening. We are weary after the day’s work and worn out by our distractions. The time for rest is near, and our minds are ready for contemplation.