Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Visitation Of The Blessed Virgin Mary

Today's feast is remarkable for a number of reasons [as captured in Luke 1:39-56], however it is in a literary sense that I appreciate it this year.

The Visitation marks when Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer, and Mary, the Bearer of God, meet as kinswomen.  Elizabeth senses her son, John, still in utero, leap for joy at the occasion.  Mary thus offers what has become known as The Magnificat:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.
The literary aspect is found in this meeting's significance, as it is the moment when, figuratively speaking, the Older Covenant is introduced to the Newer Covenant within the developing context of scripture.  Elizabeth is aged and thought to be barren, but is pregnant with he who would be, in essence, the final prophet of the Older Covenant.  Mary may be as young as fourteen or fifteen, and carries in her he would bring us into the Newer Covenant.  Their three months together, with Elizabeth presumably teaching Mary the "womanly arts" that were passed through the generations by Jewish women, signifies that overlapping exchange that marks the connection between Judaism and its Christian expression. 

Today's collect:
Father in heaven, by whose grace the virgin mother of your incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping your word: Grant us who honor the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.