This is a fairly late feast, going back only to the 13th or 14th century. It was established widely throughout the Church to pray for unity. The present date of celebration was set in 1969 in order to follow the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25) and precede the Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24).
Like most feasts of Mary, it is closely connected with Jesus and his saving work. The more visible actors in the visitation drama (see Luke 1:39-45) are Mary and Elizabeth. However, Jesus and John the Baptist steal the scene in a hidden way. Jesus makes John leap with joy—the joy of messianic salvation. Elizabeth, in turn, is filled with the Holy Spirit and addresses words of praise to Mary—words that echo down through the ages.
It is helpful to recall that we do not have a journalist’s account of this meeting. Rather, Luke, speaking for the Church, gives a prayerful poet’s rendition of the scene. Elizabeth’s praise of Mary as “the mother of my Lord” can be viewed as the earliest Church’s devotion to Mary. As with all authentic devotion to Mary, Elizabeth’s (the Church’s) words first praise God for what God has done to Mary. Only secondly does she praise Mary for trusting God’s words.
Then comes the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Here Mary herself (like the Church) traces all her greatness to God.
One of the invocations in Mary’s litany is “Ark of the Covenant.” Like the Ark of the Covenant of old, Mary brings God’s presence into the lives of other people. As David danced before the Ark, John the Baptist leaps for joy. As the Ark helped to unite the 12 tribes of Israel by being placed in David’s capital, so Mary has the power to unite all Christians in her Son. At times, devotion to Mary may have occasioned some divisiveness, but we can hope that authentic devotion will lead all to Christ and therefore to one another.
“Moved by charity, therefore, Mary goes to the house of her kinswoman.... While every word of Elizabeth’s is filled with meaning, her final words would seem to have a fundamental importance: ‘And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her from the Lord’ (Luke 1:45). These words can be linked with the title ‘full of grace’ of the angel’s greeting. Both of these texts reveal an essential Mariological content, namely the truth about Mary, who has become really present in the mystery of Christ precisely because she ‘has believed.’ The fullness of grace announced by the angel means the gift of God himself. Mary’s faith, proclaimed by Elizabeth at the visitation, indicates how the Virgin of Nazareth responded to this gift” (Blessed John Paul II,The Mother of the Redeemer, 12).
Also today in the Latin Calendar we commemorate SS Processus and Martinian, Martyrs.
The Holy Martyrs Processus and Martinian were pagans and they served as guards at the Mamertine prison in Rome.
State criminals were held in this prison, among them some Christians. Watching the Christian prisoners and listening to their preaching, Processus and Martinian gradually came to the knowledge of the Savior. When the holy Apostle Peter was locked up at the Mamertine prison, Processus and Martinian came to believe in Christ. They accepted holy Baptism from the apostle and released him from prison.
The jailer Paulinus learned about this, and he demanded that Saints Processus and Martinian renounce Christ. But they fearlessly confessed Christ, and they spat at the golden statue of Jupiter. Paulinus ordered that they be slapped on the face, and then seeing the resolute stance of the holy martyrs, he subjected them to torture. The martyrs were beaten with iron rods, scorched with fire, and finally, thrown into prison.
A certain illustrious and pious woman by the name of Lucina visited them in prison and gave them help and encouragement. The torturer Paulinus was soon punished by God. He fell blind and died three days later. The son of Paulinus went to the city ruler demanding that the martyrs be put to death. Saints Processus and Martinian were beheaded by the sword (+ ca. 67).
Lucina buried the bodies of the martyrs. Today their tomb is in the south transept of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Using Time Wisely:
We fritter away time every day on silly internet games, trashy novels, insipid television shows, and the like. And while we all need to relax, we must be jealous of the hours we have been given on earth to do God's work.
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
It is better to do the divine will on earth than to enjoy paradise.
During Holy Mass, I saw the Crucified Jesus
February 2, 1937
Today, from early morning, Divine absorption penetrates my soul. During Mass, I thought I would see the little Jesus, as I often do; however, today during Holy Mass I saw the Crucified Jesus. Jesus was nailed to the cross and was in great agony. His suffering pierced me, soul and body, in a manner which was invisible, but nevertheless most painful.
Oh, what awesome mysteries take place during Mass! A great mystery is accomplished in the Holy Mass. With what great devotion should we listen to and take part in this death of Jesus. One day we will know what God is doing for us in each Mass, and what sort of gift He is preparing in it for us. Only His divine love could permit that such a gift be provided for us.
O Jesus, my Jesus, with what great pain is my soul pierced when I see this fountain of life gushing forth with such sweetness and power for each soul, while at the same time I see souls withering away and drying up through their own fault. O Jesus, grant that the power of mercy embrace these souls. - (Diary No. 913-914)