The Visitation celebrates Mary’s journey to “visit” her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist. In the greeting between theses two mothers, John “leapt for joy” in the womb of Elizabeth as she joyously called Mary “blessed among women.” But what is frequently overlooked in the Visitation scene is Mary’s response, a beautiful prayer echoing the prayer of Hannah in the Book of Samuel : “My soul proclaims the greatness of God my spirit rejoices in God my savior for he has looked upon his servant in her lowliness…”
It is a few verses later that Mary, the humble Virgin declares: “God has shown the stength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit…he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly…he has filled the hungry with good things while the rich he has sent away empty.”
These are not sentimental words of piety but a subversive message proclaiming a new world about to be born. This world vision, given impetus and clarity by Mary, will only come about through many “labor pains.” How appropriate to use the image of “labor pain” in trying to describe the birth of the Kingdom that Jesus preached and Mary foreshadowed. New life…new purpose… new directions…a “new heaven and a new earth”…a clashing of the new with the old erupts. There will be conflict and pain in the gradual birthing of the Kingdom of Jesus into full blossom. So be it…
How often have I heard a mother say that the pain in giving birth, while not totally being forgotten, is so worth the joy in the life that came forth. Mary, Mother of the Church…Mother of God…is at the heart of this subversive experience in which the lowly, the humble, the powerless, the poor will be raised in dignity. But it won’t be easy.