The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: from Divine Intimacy


O my Mother, most holy Virgin Mary, be always my model, my support, and my guide.


“And Mary, rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda.” 

These words are from the gospel of this feast (Lk 1:39–47). Mary, in the exquisite delicacy of her charity, has such a profound sense of the needs of others that, as soon as she hears of them, she acts spontaneously and decisively to bring help. Having learned from the Angel Gabriel that her cousin was about to become a mother, she goes immediately to offer her humble services.

If we consider the difficulty of travelling in those days, when the poor, such as Mary, had to go on foot over difficult roads, or at best, by means of some rude conveyance, and also the fact that Mary remained three months with Elizabeth, we can readily understand that she had to face many hardships in performing this act of charity. However, she was in no way disturbed: charity urged her, making her wholly forgetful of herself, for as St Paul says, “Charity seeketh not her own” (1 Cor 13:5). How many times, perhaps, have you omitted an act of kindness, not to spare yourself a hard journey, but only to avoid a little trouble. Think how uncharitable you are and how slow to help others. Look at Mary and see how much you can learn from her!

Charity makes Mary forget not only her hardships but also her own dignity, which was greater than that given to any other creature. Elizabeth is advanced in years, but Mary is the Mother of God; Elizabeth is about to give birth to a man, but Mary will give birth to the Son of God. Nevertheless, before her cousin, as before the Angel, Mary continues to look upon herself as the humble handmaid of the Lord, and nothing more. Precisely because she considers herself a handmaid, she comports herself as such, even in respect to her neighbour. In your case, perhaps, although you know how to humble yourself before God and recognise your lack of perfection in the secrecy of your heart, it displeases you to appear imperfect before your neighbour, and you quickly resent being treated as such. Are you not anxious to have your dignity, education, and ability recognised, as well as the more or less honourable offices or charges which have been entrusted to you? Your dignity is a mere nothing, and yet you are so jealous of it. Mary’s dignity approaches the infinite, yet she considers herself and behaves as if she were the least of all creatures.


“And Elizabeth cried out with a loud voice and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?

Enlightened interiorly by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth recognises her young cousin as the Mother of God, and, deeply moved, breaks forth into words of praise and admiration. Mary makes no protest but listens with simplicity, knowing well that this praise is not due to her, but solely to the Almighty who has done great things in her. Immediately, her humble heart, by a spontaneous movement, refers all Elizabeth’s praises to God. “Elizabeth,” the Virgin says, “you glorify the Mother of the Lord, but ‘my soul doth magnify the Lord’. You say that, at the sound of my voice, the child in your womb leapt for joy, but ‘my spirit doth rejoice in God, my Saviour’. … You say, ‘Happy is she who has believed’, but the reason for her faith and happiness is the gaze which divine goodness has turned upon her. Yes, ‘henceforth all generations shall call me blessed, because God hath regarded the humility of His handmaid’.” (St Bernard) This beautiful paraphrase of the Magnificat gives us a vivid picture of the attitude of Mary’s soul as she bows in humble confession of her nothingness, touching as it were the depths of her lowliness, and then, rising higher in God than she had previously abased herself, she is not afraid to acknowledge and praise the wonderful things He has accomplished in her, precisely because she sees perfectly that they are a pure gift on His part.

If you are still inclined to vain complacency about your successes, the praise of others, the graces which God has given you, it is because you have not yet touched, as Mary did, the depths of your lowliness, and have not gone deeply enough into the consideration of your nothingness. You are not yet convinced of your radical insufficiency, your powerlessness, wretchedness, and frailty. Ask Mary to obtain for you the great grace of a clear, practical knowledge of your nothingness. Do not cherish any illusions here! You have inherited the seed of pride from Adam; hence, the road to self-knowledge is rough and hard; it is the road of humiliations. But Mary is your Mother; if she is with you, helping you, everything will become easier and sweeter.


“O Mary, how great is your humility when you hasten to serve others! If it is true that he who humbles himself will be exalted, who will be more exalted than you who have humbled yourself so much?

“When Elizabeth caught sight of you, she was astonished and exclaimed, ‘Whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?’ But I am still more astonished to see that you, as well as your Son, came not to be served, but to serve. … It was for this purpose that you went to Elizabeth: you, the Queen, to the servant; the Mother of God to the mother of the Precursor; you, who would give birth to the Son of God, to her who would bring forth a mere man.

“But your profound humility in no way lessened your magnanimity; the greatness of your soul was not opposed to your humility. You, so small in your own eyes, were so magnanimous in your faith, in your hope in the Most High, that you never doubted His promises, and firmly believed that you would become the Mother of the Son of God.

“Humility did not make you fainthearted; magnanimity did not make you proud, but these two virtues were perfectly combined in you!

“O Mary, you cannot give me a share in your great privileges as Mother of God; these belong to you alone! But you want me to share in your virtues, giving me examples of them in yourself. If, then, sincere humility, magnanimous faith and delicate, sympathetic charity are lacking in me, how can I excuse myself? O Mary, O Mother of mercy, you who are full of grace, nourish us, your poor little ones, with your virtues!”

St Bernard