Now one would think that traditionally, this feast has been celebrated since the early days of the Church. But this is not the case. While there are records to show that the feast was adopted by the Franciscan Chapter in 1263 upon the advice of St. Bonaventure, this feast was not extended to the entire Church until November 9, 1389,
it was decreed by Pope Boniface IX that the Feast of the Visitation should be extended to the entire Catholic Church in the hope that Jesus and His Mother would visit the Church and put an end to the Great Schism that was taking place.
This Schism was known as the “Western Schism.”
Consequently, the Lord Jesus and His Mother visited the Catholic Church and resolved the situation to secure that apostolic succession would continue as we enjoy it today.
And In today’s Gospel Reading, we find the origin of the “Magnificat” which is also known as the “Canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” As one of the three “evangelical canticles,” it is included in the Roman Breviary for Vespers daily throughout the year and prior to Vatican II, it was often sung on solemn occasions. The Magnificat was recited by the Blessed Virgin on her visit to Elizabeth after the Angel Gabriel had announced to her that she was to become the mother of Christ.
“The Magnificat is the crown of the Old Testament singing, the last canticle of the Old and the first of the New Testament.
This time of year, I think, a lot of us can appreciate the idea of taking a trip. Millions of us are thinking of heading to the beach or the mountains, National Parks or Disney World.
But what Mary does here is hardly a vacation. She has just been told that she is to be the Mother of God. And rather than keeping this news to herself, or wondering how she will cope, she sets out on a journey, to visit her cousin, Elizabeth — and we have this momentous scene that follows, The Visitation.
Not only does Mary take this journey to a town of Judah but, with this event, the great journey of her LIFE begins – an adventure that will not end until her final journey, to heaven
We tend to think of the Blessed Mother as a quiet, serene figure – a woman of few words, but blessed with tremendous faith, and boundless trust. This is true.
But this evening , I’d like to ask you to think of her a little differently.
Think of her also as a woman of action.
She is a woman on a continual journey — constantly, by necessity, on the move. She is restless, rarely sitting still or staying in one place.
After this journey to see Elizabeth, we next find Mary embarking on an arduous trip, while pregnant, to Bethlehem.
After giving birth, she and her small family are on the move again, fleeing to Egypt, to escape death.
We meet her again, traveling to Jerusalem, where her son goes missing – and we follow her as she goes in search of him. Finding him, she continues her travels, bringing him home to Nazareth.
Mary, as the first disciple, in many ways prefigures all the disciples who will follow – those who traveled, mostly on foot, throughout the world to spread the gospel and proclaim the good news. Like those apostles, Mary was a missionary – the first missionary, a woman who traveled and carried Christ to the world.
In today’s gospel, we see her, literally, bringing Jesus to another, as she carries him in her womb and goes to her cousin and speaks the words any missionary might pronounce – words which are the very essence of The Good News, and the beginning of all belief:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”
What follows, the Magnificat, is Mary’s great gift to scripture, one of its most beautiful prayers. It is prayed every evening in the Liturgy of the Hours by millions around the world. With that, Mary’s great acclamation becomes the Church’s.
We can only imagine what other travels she took in the course of her life … but we can’t forget one in particular, the most difficult of all, as she followed her son on HIS journey to Calvary…
…Her life is closely entwined with ours. All of us, like Mary, are on a journey. All of us are traveling to places we may not understand, to destinations we cannot see. This is life. But we ask Mary to help guide us on our way.
The road is long. The journey isn’t easy. We pray to have the trust in God that we need to travel whatever road we must take – just as Mary did.
And we pray, too, that one day our journeying will lead us to meet her face to face – in that place prepared for her, that destination that became her home, and where she waits for us, with a mother’s love and a mother’s hope.
As we proceed with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us ask the Lord Jesus and His Mother to continue to visit the Catholic Church so that it may bloom as an aromatic flower for the glory of God.
Father Gerard Abi Saab