The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated on May 31 and is a major feast in the Episcopal Church. Why do we celebrate it and how can we prepare?
Before Mary became the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, she was a pious Jewish girl, obedient and betrothed at 13. While she agreed to what Archangel Gabriel asked of her at the Annunciation, she needed help in understanding the magnitude of the Lord’s message. She wanted to see her elder cousin, Elizabeth, who was also miraculously with child:
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry,
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” – Luke 1:39-45
Some believe that Mary was so moved by Elizabeth’s deep recognition and understanding of the miracle within Mary’s womb, that her heart filled with joy and the Holy Spirit sang the words of the Magnificat through her (see Luke 1:46-56). Similarly, there are times when our children and youth need us to serve as their Elizabeth – to recognize what is going on within them, and offer understanding and support as they speak their truth.
Mary grew in years and knowledge along with her Son – visiting the Temple with him and attending the wedding at Cana. The Blessed Virgin Mary is now recognized as a saint. But she is in a category all by herself as the most blessed and best of all mothers. We can never be as perfect as Blessed Mother Mary. But we don’t have to be a mother to be inspired by Mary the nurturer. She nurtured the most Beloved of all, and she continues to nurture us with prayers from heaven.
A nurturer is anyone who takes care of anyone or anything. A good way to honor Mary and practice nurturing is by creating a:
Place any size statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary outside anywhere you’d like to group a bunch of plants around and in honor of her. Here are some of the most popular modern-day “Mary’s Flowers” and their medieval legendary connections to The Blessed Virgin Mary:
Rose (Our Lady’s Rose) Red roses in particular symbolize her sorrows. A “rosary” was originally a rose garden dedicated to Mary. Then in the 12th century, the Rosary became a devotion, a garland of prayers with beads.
Madonna or Easter Lily (Annunciation Lily) symbolizes Mary’s purity. Legend has it that Gabriel held a lily in his hand during the Annunciation.
Violet (Our Lady’s Modesty) is a simple flower that, according to tradition, was growing outside Mary’s window when she told Gabriel, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word,” – a humble girl courageously accepting God’s role for her. It is said that as Gabriel departed, he blessed the flowers with their delicate fragrance.
Columbine (Our Lady’s Shoes) is believed to have grown in Elizabeth’s garden. Mary touched the flowers and gave them their fragrance. The purple blooms represent the sorrow of Mary at the Cross and the flower is shaped like a dove representing the Holy Spirit.
Daisy (Mary’s Star) represents the star that led the Magi to Bethlehem and to the Holy Family.
Clematis (Virgin’s Bower) is believed to have sheltered and hid the Holy Family one day and night as they fled into Egypt and away from King Herod’s soldiers.
Lavender (Mary’s Drying Plant) is where, according to legend, Mary hung Jesus’s freshly washed clothes to dry. Their sweet fragrance comes from His clothes.
Rosemary (St. Mary’s Tree) shares a part in both legends. Rosemary sheltered the Holy Family along with Clematis and held Jesus’s freshly washed clothes to dry in the sun along with Lavender.
Marigold (Mary’s Gold) blossoms are believed to have been used by Mary as coins, especially during the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt and their encounter with robbers.
Lily of the Valley (Mary’s Tears) are said to have appeared as Mary’s tears hit the ground when she wept at the Cross.
If you don’t have time or space for a garden, you might want to make a recipe instead. According to legend, Jesus played with pine cones as a child in Nazareth. Did people make pine nut cookies in Nazareth? Did they even make cookies? We don’t know. But, there is evidence of their making fruit syrups and jams. So the Blessed Mother Mary probably made sweets for her Sweetness. This recipe honors that tradition:
Pine Nut Cookies
2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
1. Preheat oven to 375˚ F.
2. Place butter in electric mixer bowl. Cream.
3. Add sugar and blend.
4. Add eggs, vanilla and lemon juice. Mix.
5. In another bowl, place flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix with fork.
6. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.
7. Add pine nuts and blend.
8. Drop by rounded regular teaspoon onto parchment paper-covered cookie sheets about one inch apart.
9. Bake for 9 – 11 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.
10. Cool on wire rack.
Makes about four dozen.
How do you honor the Blessed Virgin Mary?