Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The rather unfamiliar prophet Zephaniah personifies the holy city of Jerusalem and gives her a message of future hope. Daughter Jerusalem is an image used by the Church today on the Feast of the Visitation as fulfilled in Mary and Elizabeth. Elizabeth says to Mary that she is blessed because she believed what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.
Zephaniah says the promise of old fulfilled is this: “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.” Elizabeth represents the faithful remnant of Israel and Mary represents the New Jerusalem, the Church.
So what misfortunes are no longer feared? First, no more misfortunes by enemies. For old Elizabeth, that is death, and for Immaculate Mary, that is sin.
Second, no more misfortunes should be feared in religion. Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah was a priest offering endless animal sacrifices that failed to atone for our sin. John the Baptist will offer a call and sign of repentance. But now Christ the Priest will offer the one perfect sacrifice. Mary in turn brings forth this new priest who finally leads all nations into right worship.
Third, there is no longer humiliation of childlessness. Elizabeth the barren is with child to show God’s goodness to the faithful. Mary is a Virgin to show that she will be the new mother of a people not born of the flesh but by the Spirit: the Church.
Lastly, the misfortune of our inability to keep God’s Law is overcome in Christ. The New David, the New Moses, Jesus, stands between us and God to do what we were unable to do. Baptized in Christ we can start to be perfected by His work in us to live a life worthy of God. This is why John leaps and dances in the womb. He recognizes as David did the joy at God’s choice to dwell among us to save us.
May we trust that God is not outdone in generosity and continue to believe in His goodness bestowed on us in Christ through Mary.
Reflection by Fr. Pachomius Meade, OSB