Visitation

October 5

Today: The Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: The Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth.

I’ve noticed that North Americans use the term “visit” in a very broad sense. Whereas in NZ we might plan to visit someone (face to face), Americans will also speak of “visiting” with a friend on the phone.

It took me a while to work out what was unique about a USA “visit.” It wasn’t simply that it wasn’t necessarily “in person”. It seemed to have more to do with the fact that there was usually no agenda and it was pretty informal. An invitation to “visit with” someone seems to be much closer to wanting to spend time or to even waste time together”

Most often our days are filled with business catch-ups, or networking over a quick coffee with the aim of building our earthly kingdoms. While these meetings might be useful, they rarely deal with the real stuff of life and friendship. It’s wasting time together that provides real friendship and food for the soul.

This is the visiting that we miss in these Covid days, the opportunity just to be with friends, in the midst of the real stuff of life, just wasting time together.

This is the kind of visiting that comes to mind when I think of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth in today’s gospel passage. She didn’t just pop in for a quick catch-up but as the scripture makes a point of telling us she stayed for three months.

I imagine the two of them having a great time, especially since Zechariah was unable to speak after his encounter with the angel!

When we visit with someone for an hour or two we don’t usually get to the stage of wasting time together. We know the catch-up will be brief so we don’t waste time.

But when we spend longer together simply for the sake of being together the visit doesn’t have to be all talk and we can relax. There can be silence with time to sit together perhaps each with a book, talking every now and then, then a break for a walk or food then more chat and more silence. This is a real visit and in this relaxed restful environment friendship blossoms. The ultimate is when the visit includes a night or two or three.

The “Visitation” of Mary to Elizabeth was the sign that these two women were good friends and together they had found safe company away from the chatter of those who could not see the presence of God in their unexpected pregnancies.

Since many of you appreciated Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Annunciation yesterday I have used his Visitation work to illustrate today’s post. I saw an exhibition of his work a few years ago and was moved by many of his depictions of religious scenes including this one  named “Visitation.” I love the way Tanner depicts the reaction of Elizabeth when Mary turns up at her door.

When I pray this decade i often think about Jesus asking me to visit others. But then I realise that before I can be an effective “visitor” I need to know that Jesus is visiting me, right here and right now.

Click on this image to pray with the ten minute audio accompaniment.

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6 Comments

  1. I found a depiction of Our Lady in sandals with a leather bag slung across her shoulder, hurrying over the hills, seemingly on an errand of mercy. Perhaps Elizabeth had sent an urgent message to Mary as she found herself pregnant and with a husband who could not speak. Elizabeth must have been sadly in need of support. So The Visitation decade for me often brings thoughts of the need for mercy and companionship; maybe I need to be doing something for someone who simply needs someone to talk to.

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  2. Thanks John for unpacking what visitation means in terms of relaxing with one another, silence, perhaps smiling and joking together in a kind, fun way, helping together to get the chores done, then a relaxing walk. Spending time in the same household for at least a day sounds wonderfully like ‘real’ visitation, because then we can be more truly ourselves together.

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  3. In my imagination, I like to think that Joseph would have accompanied Mary on this dangerous journey. He would have known that Zechariah could probably do with some male company as well. Joseph loved Mary, and I feel he would want to make sure she reached her destination safely. My imagination!

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  4. I particularly love the second Joyful Mystery as I visualise Mary, shortly after answering Gods call to be Mother of the Saviour walking, to visit her cousin, carrying her precious bundle , probably still pondering on her change of circumstances but knowing she was doing Gods will, perhaps stopping in the town squares as she travelled to refresh, and the excitement when she arrived. Mary is the most wonderful role model for all time.

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  5. The mystery we should dwell on even more deeply in this time of Covid. A time when physical visitation is at times not possible but many would love a phone call or video chat.

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  6. It was indeed lovely to read the reflection and the comments below.
    May the Lord bless you all ❣️

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