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Feast of the Visitation 1979

Pope St John Paul II's homily at the Conclusion of the Marian Month
Thursay 31 May 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

""And blessed is she who believed in the fulfillment of the word of the Lord" (Lk 1, 45).

1: With this greeting, the elderly Elizabeth exalts her young kinswoman Mary, who has come, humble and modest, to lend her services. Under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the mother of the Baptist is the first in the history of the Church to begin to proclaim the marvels that God has worked in the girl from Nazareth, and sees fully realized in Mary the beatitude/bliss of faith, because she believed in the fulfillment of the word of God.

At the close of the Marian month, on this splendid Roman evening, at this place which reminds us of the grotto of Lourdes, we must reflect, beloved Sisters and Brothers, on what was the fundamental interior attitude of the Most Holy/Blessed Virgin towards God: her faith. Mary believed! She believed in the words of the Lord transmitted by the angel Gabriel; her most pure/purest heart, already totally given to God from her childhood,
at the Annunciation dilated in the generous, unconditional "fiat" with which she accepted to become the Mother of the Messiah and Son of God: from that moment she, entering/becoming even more profoundly/deeply in/part of God's plan, she will let herself be led by the hand of mysterious Providence and through/for all her life, rooted in faith, she will spiritually follow her Son, becoming his first and perfect "disciple" and realising daily/on a daily basis/everyday the demands/needs/requirements of such a following/involved in following Jesus, according to Jesus's/his own words: "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Lk 14, 27).

Thus Mary will advance throughout her life in the "pilgrimage of faith" (cf Lumen Gentium, 58), while her beloved Son, misunderstood, slandered, condemned, crucified, will mark out for her, day after day, a sorrowful road, the necessary premise for that glorification, sung in the "Magnificat": "All generations will call me blessed" (Lk 1, 48). But first, Mary will also have to go up to Calvary to be present, in sorrow, at the death of her Jesus.

2. Today's feast of the Visitation presents to us another aspect of Mary's interior life: her attitude of humble service and disinterested love for those in need. She has just learnt from the angel Gabriel of the status of her kinswoman Elizabeth, and immediately she sets out en route for the mountain to reach
"in haste" a city of Judah, the present-day "Ain Karem". The meeting of the two Mothers is also the meeting between the Precursor and the Messiah, who, through the mediation of his Mother, begins to work/operate salvation by making John the Baptist leap for joy while still in his mother's womb.

"No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us... This commandment we have from him: whoever loves God should also love his brother" (1 Jn 4, 12.21), St John the evangelist will say.

But who, better than Mary, had implemented/put this message into practice? And who, if not Jesus, whom she bore in her womb, urged her, spurred her on, inspired her to this continual attitude of generous service and disinterested love towards others? "The Son of Man .. did not come to be served but to serve" (Mt 20, 28), Jesus will say to his disciples; but his Mother had already perfectly realized this attitude of the Son. Let us listen to the famous commentary, full of spiritual unction, that St Ambrose makes on Mary's journey: "Joyful to fulfill her desire, delicate in her duty, thoughtful/caring in her joy, she hastened to the mountain. Where, if not to the summits, was she, who was already full of God, to aspire with solicitous care? The grace of the Holy Spirit does not know obstacles which delay the step/pace" (Expositio Evangelii secundunt Lucam, II, 19).

And if we reflect with particular attention on the passage of the Letter to the Romans, which we have just listened to, we realize that an efficacious image emerges of the behaviour of Mary Most Holy, for our edification: her charity had no pretense; she loved others deeply; fervent in spirit, she served the Lord; joyful in hope; strong in tribulation, persevering in prayer; solicitous to the needs of brothers (cf Rom 12, 9-13).

3. "Joyful in hope": the atmosphere that pervades the evangelical/Gospel episode of the Visitation is joy, the mystery of the Visitation is a mystery of joy. John the Baptist exults with joy in the womb of St Elizabeth; she, filled with gladness for the gift of motherhood, bursts forth in blessings to the Lord; Mary exalts with the "Magnificat", a hymn overflowing with messianic joy.

But what is the mysterious, hidden source of such joy? It is Jesus, whom Mary has already conceived through the work of the Holy Spirit, and who is already beginning to defeat that which/what is the root of fear, anguish and sadness: sin, the most humiliating slavery for man.

This evening we are celebrating together the close of the Marian month of 1979. But the month of May cannot end; it must continue in our lives, because veneration, love, devotion to Our Lady cannot disappear from our hearts, rather they must grow and be expressed in a testimony of Christian life, modelled on the example of Mary, "the name of the beautiful flower which I always invoke / morning and evening", as the poet Dante Alighieri sings (The Divine Comedy, Paradise, XXIII, 88).

O Most Holy Virgin, Mother of God, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church, look upon us with clemency at this hour!

"Virgo Fidelis", Faithful Virgin, pray for us! Teach us to believe as you believed! Make our faith in God, in Christ, in the Church, always be limpid, serene, courageous, strong, (and) generous.

"Mater Amabilis", Mother worthy of love! "Mater pulchrae dilectionis", Mother of fair love, pray for us! Teach us to love God and our brothers, as you loved them: make our love for others always be patient, kindly, respectful.

"Causa nostrae laetitiae", Cause of our joy, pray for us! Teach us to know how to grasp, in faith, the paradox of Christian joy, which is born and blooms from sorrow, renunciation, union with your crucified Son: make our joy always be authentic and full, so as to be able to communicate it to everyone! Amen!"