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On the Visitation

Therefore, holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.

Hebrews 3:1

Yesterday, on the Church's calendar, we celebrated the Feast of the Visitation, in which we remember Mary's visit to Elizabeth recounted in Luke, Chapter 1 (vs. 39-56). Here, Elizabeth, a woman of the Aaronic priestly line, has hoped, very much like Hannah in First Samuel, for the gift of a child, and that desire has been granted. John the Baptist would be a prophet in the spirit and power of Elijah who would turn the hearts of the Sons of Israel back to God, and not just that, but God, in the person of Jesus Christ, His Lord and cousin. Mary's arrival in the Judean hill country marks the beginning of the proclamation of the Gospel in Luke's Narrative. Mary has received the word of the angel that she would conceive and bear a son by the Holy Spirit, but she has kept the word of the angel to herself.

The revelation of God to his people, however, is not to just one person, but to a nation, starting with the women of that nation. Elizabeth rejoices in Mary's greeting. She is filled with the Holy Spirit, and the child leaps in her womb. Some commentators believe this is a New Covenant rendering of David, dancing before the Ark of the Covenant. Indeed, Elizabeth's words "Why is it granted me?" closely mirror those of David when the Ark comes into the City of David. It is a moment of joy, as all encounters with the Gospel are. It is joy at a truth which we cannot immediately comprehend. We simply know that our hearts are stirred. The Visitation shows us that God has not left His people devoid of His Word, but has come, in the Word made flesh.

At the end of this encounter, Mary's canticle, the Magnificat, rings with the fruit of her pondering of this three-month-old mystery. She sings of God's lifting up of the lowly, his magnification of the humble by the great works of his mercy. In short, the promises made to Abraham have come to be fulfilled in her very womb, the promise to bless the whole world by Abraham's seed, to lift up the poor, to send away those who are rich. Today, the Magnificat is the Church's constant song, calling us to "consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession." (Heb. 3:1)

I say this to call all of you to meditate upon the Person of Jesus, especially as we undertake this long season of Pentecost, wherein we ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and souls with His grace, that our hearts may not be hardened, but laid open to the Word of God.

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