Today Mother Church celebrates the feast of the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, while pregnant with Jesus, travels to see her cousin Elizabeth who is at the time pregnant with John the Baptist.
As soon as Mary approaches, John the Baptist, inside Elizabeth, jumps for joy because he knows that he is in the presence of the Son of God!
Elizabeth knew it, too, and of course was the first to call Mary the Mother of God.
Upon Elizabeth’s arrival, Mary proclaimed the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56):
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
It’s a beautiful prayer in which Mary praises and thanks God for the gifts he has given to her. It is a prayer of rejoicing on account of the greatness of a God who lifts up the lowly through his saving power and mercy. One could go on and on about it.
The Magnificat if of course recited every day (except during the Triduum) during Vespers, quite fittingly.
Why fittingly? Today’s Office of Readings includes an excerpt from a homily given by St. Bede the Venerable in which he takes this custom into consideration. The last paragraph reads like this:
Therefore it is an excellent and fruitful custom of holy Church that we should sing Mary’s hymn at the time of evening prayer. By meditating upon the incarnation, our devotion is kindled, and by remembering the example of God’s Mother, we are encouraged to lead a life of virtue. Such virtues are best achieved in the evening. We are weary after the day’s work and worn out by our distractions. The time for rest is near, and our minds are ready for contemplation.
Makes good sense.
Do our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord?