Feast of the Visitation

Happy Visitation Day! Today commemorates this Biblical event:

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechari’ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”

Luke 1:39-55 (Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition)

Here is a beautiful painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner, one of my new favorite artists. I saw it Saturday at the Cincinnati Art Museum, where it, along with many other beautiful Tanner paintings, will be until September 9, 2012.

The Visitation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

I love Elizabeth’s look of astonishment and Mary’s warm smile. What a beautiful event this must have been in the life of these two holy cousins.

Mary’s speech at this event is called the Magnificat for its first word in Latin “magnifies,” as in “My soul magnifies the Lord.” We pray this prayer daily at Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, though in its current translation it does not use the word magnify, but says “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Who better than Mary to magnify or make more visible the Lord’s greatness?

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