Today is the Feast of the Visitation of Our Lord. It is a feast day that draws us into a deeper love of Our Lord and Our Heavenly Mother. It is also through the Visitation that mothers can enter more deeply into the joy of their vocation, as well as the joy of ministering to one another on the journey. After the Annunciation and Mary’s fiat to God’s plan of salvation, she proceeds “in haste” to her cousin Elizabeth.
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me. For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
There is much to be gleaned from this beautiful passage. It is the coming together of two women, united by joy and the promise of salvation. Two women sharing the great gift of motherhood. One bears the son who will pave the way for the coming of the Lord and the other is the New Eve whose son will take away the sins of the world. They greet one another as kinswomen united in a deep communion. The encounter between these two women invites us to be drawn closer to God by the gift of not only their pronouncement, but their pious love for one another. Their womanhood and motherhood is an example for all, but mothers can learn quite a bit through the Visitation.
Mary proceeds in haste.
Mary is primarily silent in Sacred Scripture, but she is clearly shown to be a woman of mission and purpose. She proceeds in haste. She understands the urgency of God’s working in the world. Once she accepts God’s invitation to bear the Savior of the world, she quickly visits her cousin Elizabeth. Mary’s example is an important one for mothers. We are surrounded by things in need of our attention. Children and husbands are constantly vying for our attention. At times, we can be drawn into distractions in our daily lives to the detriment of our families. We must learn to discern when haste is needed.
Mary reminds us that our work as mothers is holy work. The raising and bring up of children with the purpose of leading them to Heaven is intense work. Haste in this sense is not busyness. Far too often in Western culture, we associate busyness with holiness or importance. Running from event to event is not the type of haste I am referring to here. Haste in this sense is turning to our children and husbands in love and truly giving them our attention and giving them what they need from us in each moment. It is a constant choice to be present and to go about living our vocation with holy vigor. That does not mean we will not find ourselves exhausted at times, or even often. This is precisely why we need prayer and frequent reception of the Sacraments to remain properly balanced in our spiritual lives.
Mothers are meant to minister joyfully to one another.
There are times when motherhood can seem to be a lonely struggle. This is a reality that far too many moms keep to themselves in a culture where we are largely isolated from one another. This is especially true for stay-at-home moms–which I can attest to personally–but I suspect mothers who work struggle with this loneliness at times too. Moms need other moms. Women are particularly social creatures. We need space to discuss what is going on in our lives and with our children. We need other moms to tell us that a particular behavior is actually normal for that age. In our isolation, we can begin to feel like we are losing our minds or that our children are strange. Children can in fact be quite strange, which is one of the reasons motherhood is such a joyful, entertaining, and exhausting adventure. Moms, we are not in competition with one another. We are joyfully united to the Mystical Body of Christ and we are meant to live in communion with one another. That loneliness you feel is because this need is not being met in our fast-paced, individualistic, isolationist society. You are not alone.
At the Visitation, it is clear how much Mary and Elizabeth find peace, joy, and comfort in their meeting. They are united by the power of the Holy Spirit. We too are united by the Holy Spirit. Mothers are meant to share in one another’s joys, sorrows, struggles, grief, successes, and failures. We are meant to walk this journey of holiness together. We cannot achieve holiness alone. Human beings are ontologically–by our very nature–social creatures. By the gift of the Incarnation we are united in a deep solidarity with Christ as our Head and with one another. We are made to walk the pilgrim way together. Friendship and family are tremendous gifts. It’s time we start celebrating this gift of motherhood together, so that we may live in the joy of Christ united to one another.
Mary comes to each one of us.
As Mary went to her cousin Elizabeth, so too does she come to each one of us. She is our Heavenly Mother and she loves us with the great filial love found in that holy motherhood. Throughout the day, we must foster a habit of calling on her for aid. Motherhood requires great charity, patience, fortitude, temperance, prudence, and every virtue available to us. There is something about motherhood that prunes us at the deepest levels. The selfishness we naturally possess due to the Fall is constantly ripped out of us by our children and our husbands. This is a holy process, but a daunting, and at times, overwhelming process. Mary is a mother’s guide. She will not leave us or fail us. She will always lead us to her Son and help us on the path to holiness. Call on her and trust in her loving guidance, wisdom, and example.
Today’s Feast of the Visitation is a wonderful opportunity to draw deeper into the vocation of wife and mother. This is the path God has given to us in order to draw us into conformation with Him. Mary teaches us to make haste in our daily lives, so that we may prioritize those things which will guide our families and lead us to holier lives. Mary and Elizabeth reveal to us the power of communion through the Holy Spirit and show us that we are members of that communion with one another. We are not meant to be islands tackling the great task of raising saints alone. We are meant to walk towards our Heavenly home together. Mary, Our Mother, ora pro nobis.
image: The Visitation (Lower Church, Assisi) by Giotto di Bondone [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons