Mary’s visit to Elizabeth was quite a pleasant surprise for the elderly lady who had “barricaded” herself within her house from the moment she had discovered that she had gotten pregnant in her old age. That was her second pleasant surprise in six months. (The first, of course, had been her discovery that she was expecting a child, despite her being beyond the normal age of childbearing, and especially because she had been barren all her life.)
But Elizabeth’s greatest surprise came from learning that her young relative had been chosen by God to be the mother of the promised Messiah. Probably, like just about everybody else, Elizabeth was convinced that the Messiah would be born of some queen and in a royal palace, while Mary was a simple, poor village girl who lived in a despised corner of Northern Palestine.
But rather than lead to doubt or deny the fact that Mary had indeed received such a sublime privilege and mission, Mary’s “Good News” brought Elizabeth to greet her young cousin with the enthusiastic acclaim: “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the Child that you bear in your womb!” That was not a simple human conclusion. It was the Holy Spirit who had enabled Elizabeth to realize the loftiness of the dignity which such motherhood bestowed on Mary.
In her humility, the elderly lady just could not understand how the Mother of the Messiah had deigned to honor her with her visit. But that was beside the point, for she knew full well, by now, that the Lord’s ways are inscrutable. What mattered was Mary. And for her, Elizabeth had still another compliment: “Blessed are you because you believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!”
These few sentences, uttered by Elizabeth under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, make of her the first and most enthusiastic of Mary’s devotees. Her words were not an empty compliment but the humble and God-inspired acknowledgment of Mary’s dignity and worth.
Those who claim to believe that the Bible is the word of God should take the episode of the Visitation very seriously. Unfortunately, most of them fail to do so. They actually systematically ignore this episode as if it were one of the many “apocrypha” which are the fruit of popular exaggeration.
Clearly, these poor brothers and sisters are blinded by prejudice against Mary Most Holy, the Mother of the Lord. This is a very serious handicap. We should pray that the same Holy Spirit who inspired Elizabeth may also work on them and bring them to repeat with love what old Elizabeth proclaimed with joyful admiration, and which the Church has been praying for the past two thousand years.
JESS P. BALON