The Visitation (1)
The Gospel of St Luke (1.39-56) tells us about the visit that Our Lady made to her cousin St Elizabeth. Elizabeth, you will remember, was miraculously pregnant with St John the Baptist. We are told that she was ‘well on in years’, and, in one of the most wonderful phrases in the Bible, that ‘her days of girlhood were over’! She and her husband Zechariah wanted a child, but they were unable to conceive. When Zechariah was serving in the Temple, the archangel Gabriel appeared to him, announced that Elizabeth was pregnant, that the child was going to be called John, and that he would be ’filled with the Holy Spirit’, even before his birth.
And to think that all Zechariah had wanted to do was a spot of sacrificing in the Temple!
We know that Zechariah was struck dumb until he confirmed that the child’s name was to be John, and we next pick up the story of what Elizabeth, Zechariah and bump (filled with the Holy Spirit bump), were up to when Our Lady went to visit her kinswoman.
By now, the Archangel Gabriel had been busy, and had also been to see the Blessed Virgin, and after the action of the Holy Spirit, Our Lady too was pregnant. By the time of the Visitation St Elizabeth is six months gone and as Our Lady stays with her for three months, she must have stayed for the birth itself. Elizabeth and Zechariah lived in Hebron, which was quite some distance away, and this must have been quite a thing for Our Lady to do. After all, it is not as if Our Lady’s life had been exactly quiet. After the annunciation, word had got round that she was pregnant, and we are even told that Joseph, an honourable man, was going to spare her from more gossip by not going forward with the marriage. Then ’an angel of the Lord’ appeared to St Joseph in a dream and the marriage was back on. OK, so we don’t know who this ‘angel of the Lord’ was, but I’d put a crisp £5 note that it was Gabriel again - that Archangel gets around!
So after all that, Our Lady sets out on a journey to visit Elizabeth. It may have just been kindness, and an outpouring of charitable love, but God had great plans for this meeting between the two women. Great plans indeed!
This originally was on the Back of the Bulletin of the Shrine of Our Lady St Mary of Glastonbury, and St Michael Shepton Mallet