Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today's Mass Readings


The prophet Zephaniah uses a well-known trope: Daughter Zion. It is the holy city personified. Now, when most people personify a concept—like Lady Liberty—it is an idealized portrait. For the Hebrews, it was nothing of the sort! It was warts and all, the kind of woman who goes astray, even gets dismissed by her husband and only taken back later in life; she is humiliated by pagan neighbors. It is not the ideal but a real list of Israel’s woes. I can hear in the prophets’ use of the metaphor when our seminarians give me the backhanded compliment to the evaluations I wrote about them, saying, “That’s very detailed,” as if to say, “you could’ve left that part out.”

Yet the days are coming when this fear and misfortune will be over. Why? Because God will come into her midst and renew His love for her.

In our feast today, we see Mary is the new Daughter Jerusalem. To us, she’s the ideal and the one for whom the Lord makes His dwelling in her womb. Long-suffering Israel represented by the elderly Elizabeth who has been blessed before it is too late, confirms this. Nevertheless, Mary is strange. She is like the pivotal women ancestors of Jesus who fill up Matthew’s genealogy – not ideal, and dubious for sure. Mary is odd because she is a virgin, is poor, is a suspect of infidelity, and is uneducated. The Lord wishes to show His mysterious love for the smallest of nations and those of seemingly no account in the world’s eyes. This is what He comes to save – not the haughty or self-righteous, but those who admit their sinfulness and long for God with pure hearts. Christ Jesus through Mary’s “yes” becomes the ideal for our unideal situation; He takes on flesh through this holy daughter, to make us all sons and daughters of God through adoption.

Reflection by Fr. Pachomius Meade, OSB

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