The Visitation (3)
When Our Lady came to St Elizabeth, the latter exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
We can see in St Elizabeth’s words the beginnings of the Hail Mary. Sometimes we are accused of making too much of Our Lady, of putting her in the place of God, or even of worshipping her, but there is nothing further from the truth. All we do is follow the example of what holy men and women have done through the ages, starting with St Elizabeth. When she says that Our Lady is ‘blessed’, then we might think of the Beatitutes (blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are those who mourn etc.) and if we can all be blessed, then Our Lady is no different. But this is not the case at all, because the word that the Bible uses in these two places is different. We make the connection because we have used the same word (‘blessed’) to translate two different Greek terms. The beatitudes says makarios (μακαρίος), while the Visitation uses eulogetos (ʾευλογητος). So when St Elizabeth says that Our Lady is ‘Blessed’ it points to the One in her womb, rather than to us.
Also eulogetos (the ‘blessed’ of the Visitation) has the sense of ‘being well spoken of’ or ‘being praised’. We praise Our Lady because she is worthy of it, and we know that it true, because St Elizabeth tells us.
So, when Elizabeth says this, she connects Our Lady with her Son in a most intimate way, and says that we must praise Our Lady in the same kind of way that we praise her Son. She is Blessed, or to be praised, because she said yes to the angel, and as a result she has Jesus within her: the author of all life. In the way that we praise Him, so should we praise her too.
How then could it be that we could praise the Virgin too much? St Elizabeth tells us that she is Blessed, and we know and act accordingly. Know that when you say your Hail Marys you are putting our Lady in the same camp as her Son - worthy of praise and Blessed indeed!
This originally appeared on the back of the bulletin of the Shrine of Our Lady St Mary of Glastonbury, and St Michael Shepton Mallet