Our feast of the Visitation of Mary invites us into a deeply personal moment with the Scriptures. The Precursor and the Lord are both hidden from each other. Yet even before the two women embrace, John leaped for joy in his mother’s womb. Both births are hailed by two beautiful canticles: the Benedictus sung by Zechariah and the Nunc Dimittis prayed by Simeon, the “righteous and devout” man in the temple.
There are two aspects of the Visitation to consider. The first aspect is that any element of personal agenda of Mary and Elizabeth is tossed aside. Both had good reason to be very preoccupied with their pregnancies and all that new life brings. Both women had a right to focus on themselves for a while as they made new and radical adjustments to their daily lives. Mary reaches out to her kinswoman to help her and also to be helped by her. These two biblical women consoled each another, shared their stories, and gave each other the gift of themselves in the midst of the new life that they must have experienced.
The second aspect of this moving story is Mary’s haste. Saint Luke tells us that she undertook in haste the long and perilous journey from Nazareth to a village in the hill country of Judea. She knew clearly what she wanted and did not allow anyone or anything to stop her.
St. Ambrose tells us this haste could mean: “the grace of the Holy Spirit does not know delayed efforts.” Mary’s free choice to move forward and outward is reflective of a decision taken deep within her heart followed by immediate action. The Spirit completely possessed the Virgin Daughter of Nazareth and compelled her to act. Such possession by God’s Spirit is the only possession worthwhile, life-giving, hopeful and joyful.