Filed under: Unborn Jesus
When we speak of the Visitation we usually refer to Mary’s journey to the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth. In fact, that is how Luke’s Gospel recounts the event (Lk 1:39). But we can also view it as God journeying to the hill country to visit His people, or more specifically, to visit an unborn baby. St. Peter Julian Eymard sums up the visit this way:
“The Word was in Mary’s womb. He inspired His mother to visit Elizabeth; Mary carried to John his Master and King. John could not come, for his mother was too old to undertake that journey; Jesus Christ went to him. He did the same for us: we could not go to God; God came to us.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church carefully explains what happens next:
“John was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb’ by Christ Himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.” (717)
Maybe many of us have had a tendency to picture this whole scene in a different way, thinking of this just-conceived Christ as passively hidden within the womb of Mary while the dynamic Holy Spirit descends upon John and Elizabeth both, causing the unborn John to leap and the pregnant Elizabeth to exclaim in wonder. But the just-conceived Christ is not passive! First He inspires Mary to journey to Elizabeth (and unborn John). Then, as the Catechism says, He causes the Holy Spirit to fill John.
Just think, the Annunciation/Incarnation occurs, Jesus Christ is now officially an unborn baby, and He travels “with haste” (Lk 1:39) – where?, to whom? – to another unborn baby! Then, as if to leave no doubt as to His Holy intentions, He dramatically pours forth His Spirit upon the unsuspecting unborn baby John. Suddenly, definitively, Grace rushes upon one chosen person – John the Baptist. We see the redemption of humanity and the New Creation in Christ prefigured here, encapsulated as it were, in the womb of Elizabeth. Here is a concrete living example of the words from the Prologue of John’s Gospel: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth…And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace “(Jn 1:14,16).
This is a marvelous prophetic event for the Church and for the world. When Blessed Teresa of Calcutta gave her Nobel Peace Prize Lecture in December 1979, she reminded the world of this Gospel event, focusing on these two unborn babies. And John Paul II refers to this same event several times in his prophetic encyclical letter The Gospel of Life (issued in 1995).
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