Thursday, May 31, 2012

“The Visitation” of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth

This is the topic of today’s Catholic Liturgical Feast: I am trying to apply it to my life today. 
It would seem that a “visitation” is not the same as a simple “visit” whereby I go to see someone. A visitation has a deeper purpose; it is an encounter that carries within it a meaning that is intentional. 
Mary, the mother-to-be of the Son of God, carried Jesus within her womb as she came to spend time with Elizabeth. He was already given a name by God, as was the son of Elizabeth. They were already persons who obviously recognized each other in a mysterious way. Nevertheless, even my simple visit to someone, superficial as it may seem, still does accomplish something. I don’t mean to diminish its importance. I too carry the very presence of Christ within me everywhere and to everyone. It has its reward. Just being there with another person, even in silence, someone who is hurting, grieving, discouraged, or confused is efficacious even if I don’t say a word.
But there can be more.  
When I reach out to connect with someone in “visitation,” I can do it in multiple ways in these times of modern technology. I can go in person, of course, if they have asked me to come, or if I feel the constraint of God and my loving concern for them. I can also do so by phoning someone who is ill or in distress just to let them know I am thinking about them and care. I can carry on a “visitation” by emailing them. That carries the potential of being a very personal gesture even without a face to face encounter or a voice involved. It can still be spirit to spirit and heart to heart.
I can just as readily pray for someone over the phone or even express my prayer for them in writing by email. It can become a “cyberspace visitation” if I go beyond surface chit-chat or the mere expressing of my concern and sympathy or empathy. I can gently and with love and wisdom share spiritual matters naturally and genuinely. I can offer a person some spiritual encouragement that will help them press on through their struggle and assist them to endure what they are going through and unite their suffering with that of Jesus. This can be in fulfillment of the Spiritual Acts of Mercy which we are privileged to carry out as Gifts of the Spirit.
I can even use my blog as a “visitation” to those who view it and pray that someone who needs those very words will be edified. That is also the reason I write and publish books. What I write has the potential of carrying on a “visitation” with each reader. I pray that the Holy Spirit may apply the words that I have been led to write for God’s glory to each reader’s spirit and heart in His unique way for their unique need. I welcome the Holy Spirit to speak to them “between the lines” on the page to accomplish His purpose.
We don’t know what really went on in the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah in the hill country town in Judah for the three months of Mary’s visit—the conversation and the practical help. What a drama was being played out! There was a wide generational gap between the two women, but both were pregnant in supernatural ways. It must have been a joyful time. But it was probably a fairly quiet household since the angel pronounced that Zechariah would remain mute during Elizabeth’s pregnancy as a consequence of doubting the angel’s words. Too bad he didn’t have an iPad or other techy equipment to join in. But I’ll bet he listened to their conversations!
Surely the intimate exchange of the women would have been incredible to hear as they probed and shared the Scriptures about the Messiah and the implications for themselves and their infant sons in God’s salvific plan. Mary is recorded as projecting her “Fiat” to God as influencing all future ages of time. She declared, “From this day all generations will call me blessed.” That was not said in boastful pride but in the accurate understanding of prophecy.
Zechariah, with his lifetime background and training in the prophetic Scriptures, finally got the full picture as his tongue was loosed after John’s birth. He expressed his understanding at last so eloquently in his Canticle in Luke chapter one. He recounted the entire Messianic promise and the sweep of history and its imminent fulfillment. He also understood the prophetic preparatory role his own son would fill.
It would seem that Mary stayed there through the delivery of the infant John—and doubtless not only helped her cousin but learned much that she would need to know when her own due time arrived. God may have had many purposes for this visitation of Mary. I’ll bet she had a lot to tell Joseph upon her return. Imagine their anticipation as they waited for her fullness of time and thought of their holy responsibility of bringing up the Son of God under their roof!
I can’t judge what effect my “visitation” might have upon another person when I reach out to someone in a prayerful, intentional way. I really don’t need to know. It is best to leave the fruit of such encounters a secret with God. However, I am fully aware what a consolation it is to my own heart when someone reaches out to me with a “visitation.” I am uplifted, encouraged, sometimes challenged, even corrected in my course toward holiness by something a friend has shared intentionally with me through their “visitation.”
I question myself: does someone meet the Christ I carry within me by the presence of the Holy Spirit when I make a “visitation”? God help me not to squander the opportunity by limiting it to just a “visit” with small talk. The Scripture says that we shall be accountable for the idle words of our mouths. I must become more aware that every communication with another person’s spirit is potentially eternally significant.

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