GROW CLOSER TO OUR BLESSED MOTHER
with this free eBook, Mary, My Mother
Through these Marian quotes, reflections, and prayers in this book, we pray that you will learn more about our Mother Mary and grow in greater devotion to her.
St. Gabriel announced, “And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:36-37).
After Mary found out that her cousin was pregnant, she immediately left to visit her. Until modern times, women normally relied on their families and their communities to assist them with their pregnancies and deliveries. As an older woman, St. Elizabeth especially needed assistance during this time.
It also holds spiritual significance that these two women – the mothers of the Savior and His forerunner – spent time together. As the Gospel of Luke recounts, they both understood and appreciated this significance (Lk. 1:41-56).
St. Luke tells us that Elizabeth was Mary’s kinswoman (syngenis), a term that simply means a female relative. Some early writers thought them cousins, whose mothers were sisters, but Scripture doesn’t provide that detail. Elizabeth, like her husband, was from a priestly family (Lk. 1:5). This indicates that Mary, also, was “a daughter of Aaron.” Whatever the actual degree of relationship, the close kinship is indicated by the familiarity which the two women show each other.
How many months pregnant was Elizabeth when Mary visited her?
Elizabeth was six months pregnant, as Gabriel had stated.
“Her Magnificat, at the distance of centuries and millennia, remains the truest and most profound interpretation of history, while the interpretations of so many of this world’s wise have been belied by events in the course of the centuries.” - Pope Benedict XVI
Elizabeth resided in Judea with her husband Zechariah, a priest who periodically served in the Temple (Lk. 1:5). Tradition holds that they lived in Ein Karem, near Jerusalem. The Church of the Visitation commemorates the place today.
The journey would have been an arduous one. Since Jews avoided the direct route through Samaria, she would have traveled from Nazareth down to the Jordan Valley, followed the river south to just north of the Dead Sea, then up to Jerusalem, a climb of 3100 feet and distance of 28 miles. Today, the same journey is a 105-mile trip.
While we know she would not have made the journey alone, but with relatives or other pilgrims from Nazareth, some authors suggest that Joseph would have accompanied her to protect and provide for her. Scripture, however, is silent on such details.
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. (Luke 1:42-45)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 495) states, “Called in the Gospels ‘the mother of Jesus,’ Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as ‘the mother of my Lord’.” While we do not know the word used by St. Elizabeth in Aramaic, the word used here by St. Luke, Kurios, is the Greek word chosen by the rabbis to translate the divine name of God, YHWH (I AM) into Greek. Not only is Elizabeth identifying Jesus as God, therefore, but Mary as the Mother of God.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the child in her womb leapt for joy and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:41). This is understood as indicating that St. John was justified in his mother’s womb. This is not an unlikely privilege of grace for the Forerunner of the Messiah, especially in light of the Church’s faith that the Mother of the Redeemer was herself conceived in justice at the very beginning of her life.
Why did Mary stay with Elizabeth for three months?
Mary was staying with Elizabeth to help her through the last trimester of her pregnancy and presumably to help her during labor. As an older woman, it must have been particularly difficult – barring another miracle – to carry the baby and deliver him.
“May we imitate her example of readiness and generosity in the service of our brethren. Indeed, only by accepting God’s love and making of our existence a selfless and generous service to our neighbour, can we joyfully lift a song of praise to the Lord.” - Pope Benedict XVI
We read about the father of John the Baptist in Luke 1:5-25:
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him,
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth;
for he will be great before the Lord,
and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink,
and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit,
even from his mother’s womb.
And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,
and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah,
to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him,
“I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”
And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying, “Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.”
“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.’” - Luke 1:46-48
After the angel appeared to Zechariah, he was muted by God in punishment for his disbelief. He remained mute throughout Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
The Gospel of St. Luke tells us,
Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your kindred is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all marveled. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
… And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel. (Luke 1:57-66,80)
How old were Zechariah and Elizabeth when John the Baptist was born?
St. Luke records variously that they were “advanced in years” (Lk. 1:7, 1:18), or “old” (Lk. 1:18, 36). This suggests they were likely at least 50 years of age.
In Luke we read that filled with the Holy Spirit, praising God (Lk. 1:68-75) he prophesied of his son (Lk. 1:76-70),
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
through the tender mercy of our God,
when the day shall dawn upon us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
How was John the Baptist conceived?
He was conceived in the normal way. It was miraculous because Elizabeth was past her child-bearing years, and she had been unable to conceive even in her younger years.
When was John the Baptist born?
St. John the Baptist was born about six months before Our Lord. Scholars disagree as to the exact year in which Jesus was born, but it was probably between 6 and 4 B.C., though possibly as late as 1 B.C. Errors in reconciling the calendars and events of the ancient world, when dating from Christ’s birth was adopted in 525 A.D., accounts for Christ being born B.C., rather than 1 A.D.
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A canticle (song) is a hymn with scriptural text. There are ten such texts identified in Scripture, three of which are used daily in the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours: the Benedictus of Zechariah (Lk. 1:68-79), the Magnificat of Our Lady (Lk. 1:46-55) and the Nunc Dimittis of Simeon (Lk. 2:29-32).
What is the name of Mary’s song of praise to God?
The beautiful hymn of Luke 1:46-55 is called the Magnificat.
What does “Magnificat” mean?
Magnificat is Latin for “(it) magnifies.” It is taken from the first word in Latin of Luke 1:46, Magnificat anima mea Dominum (My soul magnifies the Lord). The Magnificat is used every day by the Church as a song of praise during Vespers or Evening Prayer.
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”
The prayer of the Hail Mary is rooted in Scripture but is also a response of the Church to the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption, and the role of Our Lord’s Blessed Mother in it (cf. John 2:3).
In Luke 1:28, St. Gabriel greets Mary with the words, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”
In Luke 1:42, St. Elizabeth says these words to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
“Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!’” - Luke 1:41-42
The Old Testament is filled with types, people and things which have importance for the Covenant of Moses, or Old Covenant, but which properly prepare for and foreshadow the perfect fulfillment of some spiritual reality in the New or Christian Covenant.
Thus, while the historical Ark of the Covenant carried the Word of God, in the Tablets of the Law, and was considered holy itself, being placed in the Holy of Holies of the Temple, Mary is the true Ark of the Covenant. She carried the Word Himself, the Bread of Heaven, and the Good Shepherd (Heb. 9:3-5; Rev. 11:19-12:1).
“Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2676)
Thus, we see that the Old Testament, concerning the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel), and the New Testament, the Blessed Mother (St. Luke), use almost identical language.
And David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” - 2 Samuel 6:9
[Elizabeth said], “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” - Luke 1:43
Michal … saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD. - 2 Samuel 6:16
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb. - Luke 1:41
And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months. - 2 Samuel 6:11
And Mary remained with her about three months. - Luke 1:56
St. John in the Book of Revelation also reveals the connection between the Ark and the Blessed Virgin, stating:
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. (Revelation 11:19 – 12:1)