Thursday, May 31, 2007

May - The Month of Mary (Part 21: Feast of the Visitation)

From the Medieval Saints Yahoo Group:
Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Also Feast of Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces
Liturgical Color: White and/or Gold
Themes and Motives: (Originally established in the hope that Christ and His Mother would visit the Church and put an end to the Western Schism which rent the seamless garment of Christ); Fulfilment of the Old Testament and beginning of the New Testament; A feast of the Incarnation, Mary as the Ark of the Covenant, bearing within her the Emmanuel
Commemorates the day Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, whom, as the angel had told her, God had blessed with a son in her old age (Luke i. 39—56).
Instituted: The earliest evidence of the existence of the feast is its adoption by the Franciscan Chapter in 1263, upon the advice of St. Bonaventure; It was extended to the entire Church by Urban VI, 6 April, 1389
Commemorated May 31

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

After the angel Gabriel had announced to Mary that she was to become the mother of Our Lord, Mary went from Galilee to Judea to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth, soon to be the mother of John the Baptist. This visit is recorded in Luke 1:39-56. Elizabeth greeted Mary with the words, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." Mary burst forth with the song of praise which we call the Magnificat, beginning, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord." We are told that even John the Baptist, still unborn, leaped for joy in his mother's womb. Thus we are shown, side by side, the two women, one seemingly too old to have a child, but destined to bear the last prophet of the Old Covenant, of the age that was passing away; and the other woman, seemingly not ready to have a child, but destined to bear the One Who was Himself the beginning of the New Covenant, the age that would not pass away.


The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Assuming that the Annunciation and the Incarnation took place about the vernal equinox, Mary left Nazareth at the end of March and went over the mountains to Hebron, south of Jerusalem, to wait upon her cousin Elizabeth, because her presence and much more the presence of the Divine Child in her womb, according to the will of God, was to be the source of very great graces to the Blessed John, Christ's Forerunner. The event is related in Luke 1:39-57. Feeling the presence of his Divine Saviour, John, upon the arrival of Mary, leaped in the womb of his mother; he was then cleansed from original sin and filled with the grace of God. Our Lady now for the first time exercised the office which belonged to the Mother of God made man, that He might by her mediation sanctify and glorify us. St. Joseph probably accompanied Mary, returned to Nazareth, and when, after three months, he came again to Hebron to take his wife home, the apparition of the angel, mentioned in Matthew 1:19-25, may have taken place to end the tormenting doubts of Joseph regarding Mary's maternity.


The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The narration of the Gospel Reading [Lk. 1:39-56] that we have just heard reminds us of the Feast that is being celebrated today, the "Visitation of Mary." Immediately after the archangel Gabriel had appeared to the Mother of God to announce that she would give birth to the Divine Child, the Blessed Virgin Mary left to wait upon her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with Christ's forerunner.

As Elizabeth reported, the unborn child, John the Baptist, leaped with joy in his mother's womb when he found himself in the presence of Our Lady. Three months later, Mary returned to Nazareth, most likely accompanied by St. Joseph. By this time, Joseph must have had peace of mind regarding the pregnancy of Mary because of his vision of the angel in a dream. [Mt. 1:19-25]

Now one would think that traditionally, this feast has been celebrated since the early days of the Church. But this is not the case. While there are records to show that the feast was adopted by the Franciscan Chapter in 1263 upon the advice of St. Bonaventure, this feast was not extended to the entire Church until 1389.

On November 9, 1389, it was decreed by Pope Boniface IX that the Feast of the Visitation should be extended to the entire Catholic Church in the hope that Jesus and His Mother would visit the Church and put an end to the Great Schism that was taking place.

This Schism was known as the "Western Schism." The New Catholic Dictionary, Van Rees Press, NY, Copyright 1929, report the "Western Schism as follows:

"The cause of the so-called Western Schism was the temporary residence of the popes at Avignon, France, which began in 1309 under Clement V. This exile from the Eternal City met with opposition, especially in Italy where the people clamoured for the return of the sovereign pontiff. Finally in 1376 Gregory XI reestablished his see in Rome, and on his death, 1378, the future residence of the vicars of Christ was the main issue in the subsequent conclave. The cardinals meeting in the Holy City duly elected Urban VI, an Italian. General dissatisfaction, especially on the part of the French members of the Sacred College, and disagreement concerning the validity of the choice led to a second conclave at Fondi (20 Sept.) and the election of another pope, a Frenchman, as Clement VII, who immediately took up his residence in Avignon. As both claimed to be legitimate successors, the Western Church quickly divided into two camps, each supporting one or the other."

"There was really no schism, for the majority of the people desired unity under one head and intended no revolt against papal authority. Everywhere the faithful faced the anxious problem: where is the true pope? Even saints and theologians were divided on the question. Unfortunately, led by politics and human desires, the papal claimants launched excommunications against each other, and deposed secular rulers who in turn forbade their subjects to submit to them. This misunderstanding lasted forty years (1378- 1417). An attempt to mend the breach at the Council of Pisa (1409) produced a third claimant and the schism was not terminated until the Council of Constance (1414-18), which deposed the Pisan, John XXIII, received the abdication of the Roman, Gregory XII, dismissed the Avignon Benedict XIII, and finally elected an undisputed pope, Martin V (11 Nov., 1417)."


The Magnificat:


More on the Visitation at:

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
May - The Month of Mary (Part 20)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 19)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 18)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 17)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 16)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 15)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 14)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 13)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 12)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 11)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 10 - Mother's Day)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 9)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 8)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 7)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 6)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 5)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 4)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 3)

May - The Month of Mary (Part 2)

May - The Month of Mary

"Tainted Nature's Solitary Boast"

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