This feast commemorates Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. After announcing the mystery of the Incarnation, the archangel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth, her elderly and seemingly sterile cousin, would be a mother in three months’ time by a new prodigy. Mary quickly set out to congratulate the happy future mother. The trip was not inspired by any human sentiments. Mary possessed within her, with Jesus, all the wealth and joys of heaven. That was enough for her and a personal need did not move her heart, but a duty of fraternal charity presented itself to her. She simply saw an opportunity to exercise her zeal and glorify God by accomplishing this duty.
Or course, the Holy Spirit inspired Mary and the meeting between the two expectant mothers, especially the two children they bore, was a providential plan. Mary made haste, she exposed herself to the fatigue of a long journey, she climbed mountains, and soon she reached the end of her journey. How wonderful! Mary and Elizabeth have hardly been together long before Elizabeth’s infant leaped in her womb, and she herself, filled with the Holy Spirit, embraced Mary and exclaimed:
"You are blessed among all women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"
The Church borrowed these words for the Hail Mary, which has become one of the most beautiful Christian prayers. These words have resounded everywhere and over the centuries! Thus, Jesus’ mission began before His birth—He sanctified John the Baptist in his mother’s womb, because by leaping with joy John announced the Prophet who foretells of his God, and the Precursor which recognizes the Savior.
The Virgin Mary spent three months with her cousin Elizabeth
Then Mary, also filled with the Holy Spirit, sang the beautiful song of thanksgiving called the Magnificat, celebrating in heavenly language the wonders God has done for her. All the echoes of time and eternity will repeat this song forever. For three months, Mary’s words and example charmed the house she was visiting. It is unknown whether or not she left Elizabeth before the birth of Saint John the Baptist. However Saint Luke (1:56) does mention her departure before the story of Elizabeth giving birth (1:57). Back home in Nazareth, Mary regained her silent and reclusive life with joy, having lost none of this treasure of meditation, purity, and inner life that she had communicated around herself.
This mystery is such an important lesson for Christians: a lesson in charity and zeal, thoughtfulness, and kindness; a lesson in mortification, humility, and the sanctification of community action and the necessary relationships with the world.
From the book Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, (Lives of Saints for Every Day of the Year), Tours, Mame, 1950.