Having heard from the angel that her aged cousin Elizabeth was with child, Our Lady “set out in those days, and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah.” There were no grand purposes but the simple intention of assisting an aged pregnant cousin. The Incarnation has just taken place, the Son of God has just arrived and now he is immediately on the go. Carried by his Mother in the womb, the Lord deigned to visit his precursor John. Our Lady simply intended to help her cousin. Little did she realize that her good intention was used by her unborn Divine Son to send the Holy Spirit to sanctify John the Baptist in his mother’s womb. The Virgin visits Elizabeth. The Lord visits John.
Yesterday, we saw Mary as a woman of great faith. Today, we see Our Lady being motivated by her faith to perform an act of charity for her cousin. What the Blessed Virgin did may be best described by St. Paul who spoke of “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). Indeed, her charity is one driven by faith. St. James speak of the relationship between faith and charity: “What does it profit if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food and one of you says to them:’Go in peace, be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone says, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works and I by my works will show you my faith.” (Jas 2:14-18).
The Holy Father writes: “Faith without charity bears no fruit; while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path. Indeed, many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized or excluded, (as to those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support), because it is in them that the reflection of Christ’s own face is seen. Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40)…It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbor along the journey of life.” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 14).
Impelled by Christ in her womb, Mary hastened to assist Elizabeth. We know that it was her faith that worked through charity because Elizabeth herself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, acknowledged Mary’s faith: Blessed are you who believed that everything the Lord said to you would be fulfilled.”
The season of Christmas disposes us to be more generous to the poor. We are infected by the same generosity which disposed our Lord to come down from heaven to visit and assist us in our misery and poverty. Behind Mary’s visit to Elizabeth was Jesus’ visit to John. So also should Christ’s Charity towards man be the only motive underneath our charities. Let us give because we believe in Christ. Let our faith work through love.
We ought to get back the dimension of the sacred in the liturgy. The liturgy is not a festivity; it is not a meeting for the purpose of having a good time. It is of no importance that the parish priest has cudgeled his brains to come up with suggestive ideas or imaginative novelties. The liturgy is what makes the Thrice-Holy God present amongst us; it is the burning bush; it is the Alliance of God with man in Jesus Christ, who has died and risen again. The grandeur of the liturgy does not rest upon the fact that it offers an interesting entertainment, but in rendering tangible the Totally Other, whom we are not capable of summoning. He comes because He wills. In other words, the essential in the liturgy is the mystery, which is realized in the common ritual of the Church; all the rest diminishes it. Men experiment with it in lively fashion, and find themselves deceived, when the mystery is transformed into distraction, when the chief actor in the liturgy is not the Living God but the priest or the liturgical director. - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Chile, 1988)
Do we still need sacred space, sacred time, mediating symbols? Yes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the "image," through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the capacity to know the mystery of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified. - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Spirit of the Liturgy )