May 31 is the day set aside (at least in the Western church calendar) to commemorate the Visitation (when Mary went to visit Elizabeth). This is a feast day that has moved around some. If you want to know some more about how the day came to be where it is on the calendar you can point your browser to:
What seems to be at the core of this day is people seeing God’s promises come to pass in one another’s life and celebrating together. May God stir us to be with one another and celebrate God at work in one another all to the glory of God.
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.
Both cousins, Mary and Elizabeth, got word from Gabriel (Elizabeth through Zechariah, after the fact, once his tongue was unloosed) that they would receive an unexpected son. Mary would bear Jesus even though she was engaged and had not done the normal things that bring children about. Elizabeth would bear John even though she had been written off as barren. God’s glory would be made known through both of them.
Both women, Mary and Elizabeth, offer up spontaneous exultations and praises. Elizabeth’s words are source material for the “Hail Mary” prayed across the world and across time by countless faithful folks. Mary’s words are collectively referred to as “The Magnificat” and is the source material for some of the most beautiful sacred music. The words of these two blessed women have stirred and encouraged faith in many, many, many people.
How do you respond when good news comes into your life? Or the life of a friend? Or the life of a family member?
Do you visit and spend time and luxuriate in the good news with them? Do you break into song and prayer and exultations? What do you do?
For some, the temptation might be to be envious of the blessings and divine insertions that come into the lives of others…
• Why does she get to have such a beautiful voice and get asked to sing all the time?
• Why do they get the marriage that seems so solid and strong and easy?
• Why does he have a faith that seems absolutely unshakeable?
• Why can’t I be more like her?
• Why can’t I be more like him?
• Why doesn’t God bless me in that way?
• Why doesn’t God bless me as much?
• Why doesn’t God love me as much?
I think some of the best words that have been penned about how God would want things to be comes from the pen of Uncle Screwtape in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters:
The Enemy** [**read God] wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love—a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours. For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our Enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created and always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left.
God wants us to rejoice in the talents and gifts and blessings of one another. Rightly loving ourselves is deeply connected to rightly loving our neighbors. When we are blessed or when others are blessed—even our enemies—it is time to celebrate. Rightly loving ourselves is deeply connected to rightly loving our enemies too. May we see blessings and gifts and talents in one another—including our enemies—more and more readily. And, in so doing, may we grow in giving praise and honor to God.
Dear God, thank you for loving—really loving—us hairless bipeds. Help us grow in discerning blessings and talents and gifts from you and celebrating them. Teach us to sing and pray and exult like Mary and Elizabeth. Stir faith in us through their testimony and use us to stir faith in others—all to your glory. Amen.