Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Time of Your Visitation

“Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town in Judah…” Zechariah’s house was in the mountains of Judea in a place which is now called Ain Karem. Pilgrims to the Church of the Visitation climb the hill on foot to the shrine and from the top of the hill, they are treated to a wonderful panoramic view of the hills of Judea. It is a marvelous sight to behold. Looking at the hills, I remembered Our Lady who walked from Nazareth to Ain Karem in order to visit Elizabeth. It was quite a distance as it took a week’s walk to get to this place from Nazareth. And the story says: “Mary went in haste…” She was in haste because she wanted to be of assistance to Elizabeth who surely was going through a difficult pregnancy on account of her advanced age.

We see here a woman in haste to come to the aid of another woman. But this is not all there is to the story. The women concerned were both pregnant: Elizabeth with John the Baptist and Mary with Jesus. And the gospel was quite clear in emphasizing the fact that the women were not the only ones who met but their pre-born children as well. Mary had the simple intention of helping her cousin Elizabeth through a difficult pregnancy. But Jesus in the womb of Mary went to the hill country with the intention of sanctifying John the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Barely a week old in his mother’s womb, our Lord was already working to save people. The first he saved was John the Baptist. Sanctifying the pre-born Baptist with the Holy Spirit, our Lord liberated him from the slavery of original sin. Barely a week old in his mother’s womb, our Lord was fulfilling the prophecy of Zephaniah: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.”

“Mary’s visit to the household of Zachary has a striking parallel to the Old Testament when the Ark of the Covenant was entrusted to the house of the priest Obededom. King David conducted the Ark of the Covenant to Obededom’s house where it remained three months. And the Lord blessed Obededom and all his household (2 Kings 6:2). He bestowed many gifts upon it. Today, God conducts Mary, the living Ark of the Covenant, to the priestly house of Zachary. She too will remain three months. As a result God blessed this house. The Holy Spirit fills Zachary and Elizabeth (Lk. 1:67; 1:41). And John too is filled with the Holy Spirit though still in his mother’s womb, leaping and dancing as another David before the Ark of the Lord.” (St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Doctor of the Church , +1619)

The story of the visitation is the story of a God who is busy working out our salvation. He came down from heaven to visit the house of men. And he blesses those who receive him into their homes. He blessed the priest Obededom and his household. He blessed Zachariah and his family. He blessed Zacchaeus who welcomed him in his house: “Today, salvation has come upon this house!” Let us sing the praises of the Lord as he deems us worthy to have him under our roof: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof. But only say the word and my soul shall be healed!” Come Lord and save us!

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