During those days, Mary set out and travelled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah. (Luke 1,39)
The liturgy of the Church celebrates the Visit by Mary to her cousin Elizabeth on 31 May. The Archangel Gabriel, in the dialogue of the Annunciation, revealed to Mary that her elderly relative is also about to become a mother, through a surprising gift from the Lord. And Mary, who is already carrying the Son of the Almighty, goes in haste to Elizabeth. Why such a hurry? Why face a long journey with all the discomfort and dangers that go with it?It is the urgency of joy and of charity: God is faithful and is accomplishing the ancient promise, which has guided the whole life of the people of Israel.
Young Mary, betrothed to Joseph, runs to her elderly cousin, the wife of the priest Zechariah, to announce to her that the time has come.
Mary, full of the Holy Spirit that generated Jesus in Her, greets Elizabeth and the Spirit gives Elizabeth, and John in her womb, the gift of prophecy. John recognizes the presence of Jesus and dances in his mother’s womb. Elizabeth recognizes in Mary the Mother of the Saviour and blesses her. Mary, in hasteand with joy, has gone to Elizabeth to do the most urgent and greatest charity: the gift of Jesus!
The same service of charity for the men of our time is also given to the new ministries of lector and acolyte, instituted during the Mass.
For over thirty years, the Custody of the Holy Land has associated with this celebration the conferment of the Ministries of Lector and Acolyte. In the very place which witnessed the Visit of Mary to Elizabeth, today there stands the shrine of Ain Karem and here, every 31 May, the solemn mass for the feast-day of the Visitation is celebrated, this year presided by the Custody’s Vicar, Fr. Dobromir Jasztal, ofm.
On the conferment of the ministry to the friars, the Custody’s Vicar turned to each of the seven candidates for the lectorate with these words: “Receive the bookof the Holy Scriptures and transmit the Word of God faithfully so that it can sprout and bear fruit in the heart of men.” After them, he turned to the four candidates for the ministry of acolytate: “Receive the cup with the wine for the celebration of the Eucharist. May your life be worthy of service at the table of the Lord and of the Church.”
In his homily, Father Dobromir exhorted the new acolytes and lectors to be courageous, followingthe example of Mary who, “was aware of the presence of God.” It is from this presence that the faith and joy of service “are triggered off and nourished.In Mary, we have the example of how to be real disciplesand how to open our minds, our hearts and our lives to welcome the Word of God into ourselves.”
At the end of the Mass, the religious, accompanied by the faithful, went in a procession from the upper chapel to the crypt of the Visitation, singing the litanies of Loreto.
Mons Vincenzo Peroni
Filippo De Grazia