Feast of the Visitation of Our Lady, instituted in 1385 by Pope Urban IV
Mary’s first thought after the Archangel’s visit was to hasten to the little city of Ain Kharin and congratulate her cousin Elizabeth on the wonderful event about to take place. As Mary hastened along, those who met her little realized that she bore the Son of God – outwardly humble, sweet, and gracious to all.
So the little girl from Nazareth passed unobserved upon her way. But as she raised her voice in loving salutation to Elizabeth, when entering the house, a marvelous thing happened, for the unborn infant in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy as he heard the voice of God’s Mother sounding in his ears. Elizabeth, stricken with amazement, cried out:
“Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.”
In that instant Elizabeth knew that she was standing in the presence of God; knew that the little girl standing before her was God’s Mother; knew all that had taken place at Nazareth; knew of Mary’s fiat.
Then Mary lifted up her voice in high thanksgiving and gave forth the marvelous canticle:
“My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because He that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is from Generation unto generations, to them that fear Him. He hath shewed might in His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy: As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.”
In this Magnificat of the humble little girl of Nazareth there is an intense personal note; she sees why it is that she is exalted – her humility. She prophesies as well as she sings, and foretells her future glory. Then she tells that God’s mercy follows those that fear Him; she sings of God’s might; she returns to the thought of God’s mercy, and with this mercy in mind, the little virgin ends her triumphant song.
For three months Mary and Elizabeth rejoiced in each other’s company and gave thanks to God for all the wonderful mercy He had bestowed on them – one, the mother of the Herald of God, the other, the Mother of God Himself. Yet these months saw nothing outwardly extraordinary; it was just the quiet outwardly ordinary daily round, such as might be seen in any family.
After those three months the Virgin set out on her way home to Nazareth, and her return was as little noted as her going. She came full of joy and she returned full of joy, for no hint of coming sorrow cast a shadow upon her.
This Feast of the Visitation of Our Lady was instituted by Urban IV, in the year 1385, and confirmed by Boniface IX, in the year 1389.