Like Elizabeth, the Church rejoices that Mary is the Mother of the Lord
who brought her Son into the world and constantly co-operates in his
At the General Audience of Wednesday, 2 October, the Holy Father
returned to his series of reflections on the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Speaking of the Visitation, the Pope said: "Mary's visit to
Elizabeth, in fact, is a prelude to Jesus' mission and, in co-operating
from the beginning of her motherhood in the Son's redeeming work, she
becomes the model for those in the Church who set out to bring Christ's
light and joy to the people of every time and place". Here is a
translation of his catechesis, which was the 34th in the series on the
Blessed Virgin and was given in Italian.
1. In the Visitation episode, St Luke shows how the grace of the
Incarnation, after filling Mary, brings salvation and joy to Elizabeth's
house. The Saviour of men, carried in his Mother's womb, pours out the
Holy Spirit, revealing himself from the very start of his coming into
In describing Mary's departure for Judea, the Evangelist uses the
verb "anístemi", which means "to arise", "to
start moving". Considering that this verb is used in the Gospels to
indicate Jesus' Resurrection (Mk 8:31; 9:9,31; Lk 24:7, 46) or physical
actions that imply a spiritual effort (Lk 5:27-28; 15:18,20), we can
suppose that Luke wishes to stress with this expression the vigorous
zeal which led Mary, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to give
the world its Saviour.
Meeting with Elizabeth is a joyous saving event
2. The Gospel text also reports that Mary made the journey
"with haste" (Lk 1:39). Even the note "into
the hill country" (Lk 1:39), in the Lucan context, appears to be
much more than a simple topographical indication, since it calls to mind
the messenger of good news described in the Book of Isaiah: "How
beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good
tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who
publishes salvation, who says to Zion: 'Your God reigns'" (Is
Like St Paul, who recognizes the fulfilment of this prophetic text in
the preaching of the Gospel (Rom 10:15), St Luke also seems to invite us
to see Mary as the first "evangelist", who spreads the
"good news", initiating the missionary journeys of her divine
Lastly, the direction of the Blessed Virgin's journey is particularly
significant: it will be from Galilee to Judea, like Jesus' missionary
journey (cf. 9:51).
Mary's visit to Elizabeth, in fact, is a prelude to Jesus' mission
and, in cooperating from the beginning of her motherhood in the Son's
redeeming work, she becomes the model for those in the Church who set
out to bring Christ's light and joy to the people of every time and
3. The meeting with Elizabeth has the character of a joyous saving
event that goes beyond the spontaneous feelings of family sentiment.
Where the embarrassment of disbelief seems to be expressed in
Zechariah's muteness, Mary bursts out with the joy of her quick and
ready faith: "She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted
Elizabeth" (Lk 1:40).
St Luke relates that "when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary,
the babe leaped in her womb" (Lk 1:41). Mary's greeting caused
Elizabeth's son to leap for joy: Jesus' entrance into Elizabeth's house,
at Mary's doing, brought the unborn prophet that gladness which the Old
Testament foretells as a sign of the Messiah's presence.
At Mary's greeting, messianic joy comes over Elizabeth too and
"filled with the Holy Spirit ... she exclaimed with a loud cry,
'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your
womb!'" (Lk 1:41-42).
By a higher light, she understands Mary's greatness: more than Jael
and Judith, who prefigured her in the Old Testament, she is blessed
among women because of the fruit of her womb, Jesus, the Messiah.
4. Elizabeth's exclamation, made "with a loud cry", shows a
true religious enthusiasm, which continues to be echoed on the lips of
believers in the prayer "Hail Mary", as the Church's song of
praise for the great works accomplished by the Most High in the Mother
of his Son.
In proclaiming her "blessed among women", Elizabeth points
to Mary's faith as the reason for her blessedness: "And blessed is
she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to
her from the Lord" (Lk 1:45). Mary's greatness and joy arise from
the fact the she is the one who believes.
In view of Mary's excellence, Elizabeth also understands what an
honour her visit is for her: "And why is this granted me, that the
mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Lk 1:43). With the
expression "my Lord", Elizabeth recognizes the royal, indeed
messianic, dignity of Mary's Son. In the Old Testament this expression
was in fact used to address the king (cf. I Kgs 1:13,20,21 etc.) and to
speak of the Messiah King (Ps I 10: 1). The angel had said of Jesus:
"The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David"
(Lk 1:32). "Filled with the Holy Spirit", Elizabeth has the
same insight. Later, the paschal glorification of Christ will reveal the
sense in which this title is to be understood, that is, a transcendent
sense (cf. Jn 20:28; Acts 2:34-36).
Mary is present in whole work of divine salvation
With her admiring exclamation, Elizabeth invites us to appreciate all
that the Virgin's presence brings as a gift to the life of every
In the Visitation, the Virgin brings Christ to the Baptist's mother,
the Christ who pours out the Holy Spirit. This role of mediatrix is
brought out by Elizabeth's very words: "For behold, when the voice
of your greeting came to my cars, the babe in my womb leaped for
joy" (Lk 1:44). By the gift of the Holy Spirit, Mary's presence
serves as a prelude to Pentecost, confirming a co-operation which,
having begun with the Incarnation, is destined to be expressed in the
whole work of divine salvation.