ON THE VISITATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
Consider first, how the blessed Virgin having now conceived In her womb the Son of God, and having learned from the angel Gabriel that her kinswoman St. Elizabeth had also, by a miracle, conceived a son in her old age, makes haste to visit her, and being now full of God herself, carries her treasure with her to the house of Zachary to impart, out of the abundance of it, grace and sanctity both to the mother and to the son. See, my soul, how the Son of God, incarnate for us, whilst he is yet in his mother’s womb, begins to communicate his graces, not only to his blessed mother herself, by elevating her soul daily more and more to a greater fullness of grace, but also to John Baptist, his forerunner, (by sanctifying him before he was born,) and to holy St. Elizabeth, by filling her with the Holy Ghost and making his blessed mother the instrument of these wonders. Give ear to the gospel, Luke i. 39, &c. ‘Mary rising up in those days went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary the infant leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost, and she cried with a loud voice and said: Blessed are thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord,’ &c. This visitation, so full of mysteries, and the source of so many extraordinary graces, is honoured by the church in the festival of this day.
Consider 2ndly, more in particular the wonders of this day’s visit. See how at the first voice of the mother of God, by the all-powerful grace of him whom she bears in her womb, the Baptist is immediately cleansed from original sin. See how he is justified and sanctified in his mother’s womb; see how the use of reason is advanced in him, and how in that darksome prison he is made sensible of the presence of the ‘true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world;’ see with what ardour of devotion and love he is carried towards his Lord and his sovereign good, and leaps for joy at his presence – longing as it were to break forth from his confinement, and to go before him and publish aloud to all the world, ‘Behold the Lamb of God! Behold him that taketh away the sin of the world!’ John i. 29. But see also the wonderful lights and extraordinary graces that are communicated to St. Elizabeth by this visitation; see how she is filled with the Holy Ghost; see in how clear a manner the great mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, with all its consequences and fruits, is revealed to her. What a sense she has of the high dignity of the virgin mother of God, and with what ardour of devotion she publishes aloud the sentiments of her soul, and glorifies both the Son and the mother, acknowledging herself infinitely unworthy of so great a favour as that of a visit from them. Bless the Lord, my soul, for all these wonders of his grace, and learn with what sentiments of devotion, with what faith, with what hope, with what love, with what humility thou oughtest to draw near to the same Lord on our altars, lying hid in the sacred mysteries. Learn also what extraordinary graces may be drawn form this inexhaustible source of all grace, as also how great the benefit is of his visiting mankind, by his ‘being made flesh and dwelling amongst us;’ and how powerful and effectual is the intercession of his blessed mother for the procuring from him the greatest blessings for Christian souls.
Consider 3rdly, how the soul of the virgin mother was affected upon this occasion. She has expressed the sentiments of her heart in that admirable canticle she then pronounced. ‘My soul,’ saith she, ‘doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is his name,’ &c. See, my soul, in these words, as well as in all the rest of that divine canticle, the wonderful sense this blessed virgin had of the infinite goodness and mercy of God in the great work of the incarnation of his Son; her exceeding great joy in God, joined with love and praise on that occasion; her gratitude for her having been freely chosen by the divine bounty to be the happy instrument of God in effecting that admirable work, and her most profound humility in ascribing nothing at all to herself, but giving all the glory to God; and for admiring his wonderful ways, in choosing for so great a work so weak, so mean, so lowly an instrument as she esteemed herself. Learn, O my soul, to imitate these her sentiments.
Conclude to give thanks to our Lord for all his wonders wrought at this visitation, and for the many visits with which he so frequently favours thee. Beware lest any want of correspondence on thy part deprive thee of thy share in the great blessings and graces which he usually imparts to such souls as give proper entertainment to his divine visits.