The Visitation (2)
We left the Visitation at the moment when Our Lady and St Elizabeth greeted each other. This whole episode is rich in meaning, but let us just concentrate on the bare bones.
The first thing to say is that this is just so in keeping with the personality of the Virgin Mary. Never having been pregnant myself, I have no idea if a long journey, while pregnant, in the heat, not in a comfortable car, is something I would jump at… but Our Lady knew that her cousin needed her, and so she went. We know that Elizabeth was of a certain age, and no matter what her own personal circumstances (Angel, Father of the child being God, St Joseph being wobbly), Our Lady simply saw someone in need and thought of Elizabeth, before she thought of herself. Perhaps this is one of the results of being conceived without the stain of Original Sin, that she responded to the needs of others before thinking of herself. Now there is definitely a lesson in there for us.
But the meeting of the Visitation was much more than the two women, because there were four people present - St John the Baptist was in the womb of St Elizabeth, and Our Saviour in the womb of His most holy Mother. When they met, the child in St Elizabeth’s womb ‘leapt for joy’. Before his birth, John recognised his creator and Saviour. Indeed perhaps it was because he had not yet been born that it was easier for him to recognise the divine. This world can dazzle us so much that our eyes become distracted and our heads befuddled. But in the womb, St John ‘saw’ much more clearly than many would even in the flesh.
Is it then any surprise that St John became a wild man, living in the desert, eating honey and dressed in animal hides, preaching a message of repentance and the closeness of the Kingdom of God? What attractions has the world, and what can it put forward as important, when you have known the presence of God Himself before your earliest memory? John had experienced God in the womb of Our Lady, and there was nothing, and there could be nothing, more important that that. How his heart must have leapt for joy again on that day by the waterside when John pointed his finger at his cousin and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.”
This originally appeared on the back of the bulletin of the Shrine of Our Lady St Mary of Glastonbury, and St Michael Shepton Mallet