Saturday, May 31, 2003

-The Blessed Virgin Mary

This is a feast of Our Lady in both the Pauline rite and in the traditional Roman rite using the calendar of the Blessed Pope John XXIII. In the Pauline rite this is the feast of the Visitation of Our Lady to her cousin St. Elizabeth as described in Luke 1: 39-56.

This feast day is often said to demonstrate the great kindness of Our Lady in taking this long journey to care for her elderly cousin. And indeed it does. But it seems to me this must also have been a tremendous consolation for the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. Our Lady had a spiritual life like no one else on earth ever had before or ever will have. And after the visit of the Achangel Gabriel, she had a physical condition like no one else ever had or ever will have – the living God incarnate inside her. Whether or what she told anyone we don’t know. In any event, no one seems to have understood her. No one probably ever had. She desired to remain a virgin but her parents arranged a marriage for her. Her husband Joseph loved her; he showed this by not wanting to expose her to the full rigors of the law. But he didn’t understand her either since he was going to “put her away”, even though “quietly”.

But when Our Lady arrived at her cousin Elizabeth’s, her greeting is no sooner out of her mouth, then her cousin demonstrates that she knows exactly what’s happening: “How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Is this the first time in her life that the Mother of God had another human being to talk to who understood her completely? And she didn’t have to “explain” a thing. What an enormous joy and consolation this must have been. Why, she could even exchange Archangel Gabriel stories with Zachary – even if Zachary did have to write out his part of the conversation.

In the latest form of the traditional Roman rite, as codified by Blessed John XXIII, this is the feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (In the Roman rite the feast of the Visitation occurs on July 2d.) This is actually quite a recent feast for the general Roman calendar, being introduced by Pope Pius XII in 1954. Votive Masses and local celebrations of the Queenship of Our Lady had existed in many places for centuries, though. The first reading is especially beautiful. Here the Church applies the text of Ecclesiasticus [ a.k.a. “Sirach”] 24: 5-31 to Our Lady.

29 They that eat me, shall yet hunger: and they that drink me, shall yet thirst.

30 He that hearkeneth to me, shall not be confounded: and they that work by me, shall not sin.

31 They that explain me shall have life everlasting.