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Meditations on the Visitation

In the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel invited Mary to become the mother of the Messiah. In his message, he said Elizabeth is six months pregnant. (Luke 1:36)  After Mary accepted this role, the next thing we know is that she goes in haste to visit Elizabeth and stayed there for about three months (Luke 1:39, 56)

One has to put together the two pieces of information: Elizabeth was six months pregnant, and Mary stayed with her for about three months. It is almost impossible to miss the conclusion that Mary went there to help Elizabeth come to full term. After knowing she will be the mother of the long-awaited promised Messiah, Mary doesn’t think of herself at all. Instead, she goes to help her cousin, and she goes “in haste”. We have to see in this the selflessness of this teenager whom we call Our Lady. She isn’t a Queen that lords it over her people, but a Queen who serves like a slave. She is very much modeled after her son who is God that became a slave for us. How can we be arrogant in anything when she, who we see as the realization of God’s hope, isn’t?

We are told that when Mary entered the house, the unborn John the Baptist leaped in the womb of Elizabeth. It would already seem that John was excited to fulfill his role as the one who would announce the Messiah. One thing to take from this is that the unborn are persons already. As Catholics, we believe that from the moment of conception, a human being with his unique identity is alive in his mother’s womb. If this were not true, then it was just a piece of tissue leaping in Elizabeth’s womb. If Mary went in haste after Gabriel told her Elizabeth was six months pregnant, Jesus must have just been a few weeks old – literally an embryo! If Jesus wasn’t a person already, then John would just be leaping because he recognized some tissue in Mary’s womb.  The unborn are the most helpless people in the world because they are not capable of defending themselves, and so we must.

The word “leap” is a really bad English translation because the Greek word means “a whirling dance”. In fact, it is the same Greek word used for the dance that King David did when he brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). First-century Jews would have seen a lot of similarities between The Visitation and the entry of the Ark into Jerusalem – and Saint Luke seemed to make sure of that in his Gospel. King David “leaped” in front of th