Today the church honors and remembers the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May is traditionally the month to honor Mary. Last week we offered you ideas for a Mary garden and a recipe for this special day.
In a Bible largely filled with stories of men, the Visitation is notable for being a major feast which celebrates an encounter between two women. The image below, depicting that encounter, was created almost a thousand years ago. It adorns a church in Macedonia. How many women over the centuries have seen their story in those faces?
The Visitation as described in Scripture is a joyous time. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb,” Elizabeth says to Mary. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” Mary replies. These are words of delight and gratitude.
But in this image, both women are somber. They embrace one another with an almost studied seriousness.
It is as if the artist wants to portray not only this moment, but also their earthly life to follow: the beheading of one yet-to-be-born child, the crucifixion of the other. Their sorrowful faces are a foreshadowing of what is to come. And yet their halos remind us that God is at work in and through them, effecting the redemption of all humanity.
Both of them realized that their lives had been claimed by their Creator. They must have known this would be no simple path. No wonder they aren’t smiling. Instead, they reach out to one another for support.
Through the ages women have clung to one another in both celebration and grief. Today, as we celebrate the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we honor all the embraces throughout history between women through whom God is still at work to make evident the redemption of the world.
A Prayer for Today
Father in heaven, by your grace the virgin mother of your incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping your word: Grant us who honor the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
[Photo credit: The Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary. St. George Church, Kurbinovo, Macedonia, Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons.]
What do you see in the image above? How do you honor the Visitation?