Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
Excerpts from the City of God by Mary of Agreda as found in The Divine Mysteries of the Rosary,
JMJ Book Co., Necedah, WI;
NOTE: We maintained the author's language usage as translated.
MOST HOLY MARY VISITS ELIZABETH
"And Mary rising up in those days," says the Sacred Text, "went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Jude" (Luke 1, 39). This rising up of Our Heavenly Queen signified not only Her exterior preparations and setting out from Nazareth on Her journey, but it referred to the movement of Her Spirit and to the Divine impulse and command which directed Her to arise interiorly from the humble retirement, which She had chosen in Her humility. She arose as it were from the feet of the Most High, Whose will and pleasure She eagerly sought to fulfill, like the lowliest handmaid, who according to the word of David (Ps. 122, 2) keeps Her eyes fixed upon the hands of Her Mistress, awaiting Her commands. Arising at the bidding of the Lord She lovingly hastened to accomplish His Most Holy Will, in procuring without delay the sanctification of the Precursor of the incarnate Word, who was yet held prisoner in the womb of Elizabeth by the bonds of Original Sin. This was the purpose and object of this journey. Therefore the Princess of Heaven arose and proceeded in diligent haste, as mentioned by the Evangelist Saint Luke.
Leaving behind then the house of Her father and forgetting Her people (Ps. 44, 11), the most chaste spouses, Mary and Joseph, pursued Their way to the house of Zacharias in mountainous Judea. It was twenty-six leagues distant from Nazareth, and the greater part of the way was very rough ana broken, unfit for such a delicate and tender Maiden. All the convenience at Their disposal for the arduous undertaking was an humble beast, on which She began and pursued Her journey. Although it was intended solely for Her comfort and service, yet Mary, the most humble and unpretentious of all creatures, many times dismounted and asked Her spouse Saint Joseph to share with Her this commodity and to lighten the difficulties of the way by making use of the beast. Her discreet spouse never accepted this offer; and in order to yield somewhat to the solicitations of the Heavenly Lady, he permitted, Her now and then to walk with him part of the way, whenever it seemed to him that Her delicate strength could sustain the exertion without too great fatigue. But soon he would again ask Her, with great modesty and reverence, to accept of this slight alleviation and the Celestial Queen would they obey and again proceed on Her way seated in the saddle.
Thus alleviating their fatigue by humble and courteous contentions, the Most Holy Mary and Saint Joseph continued on Their journey, making good use of each single moment. They proceeded alone, without accompaniment of any human creatures; but all the thousand Angels, which were set to guard the couch of Solomon, the Most Holy Mary, attended upon them (Cant. 3, 7). Although the Angels accompanied them in corporeal form, serving their Great Queen and Her Most Holy Son in Her womb, they were visible only to Mary. In the company of the Angels and of Saint Joseph, the Mother of Grace journeyed along, filling the fields and the mountains with the sweetest fragrance of Her presence and with the Divine Praises, in which She unceasingly occupied Herself. Sometimes She conversed with the Angels and, alternately with them, sang divine canticles concerning the different mysteries of the Divinity and the works of Creation and of the Incarnation. Thus ever anew the Pure Heart of the Immaculate Lady was inflamed by the ardors of Divine Love. In all this Her spouse Saint Joseph contributed his share by maintaining a discreet silence, and by allowing his Beloved Spouse to pursue the flights of Her spirit; for, lost in highest contemplation, he was favored with some understanding of what was passing within Her Soul.
At other times the two would converse with each other and speak about the salvation of souls and the mercies of the Lord, of the coming of the Redeemer, of the prophecies given to the ancient Fathers concerning Him, and of other mysteries and sacraments of the Most High. Something happened on the way, which caused great wonder in Her holy spouse Joseph: he loved his Spouse most tenderly with a chaste and holy love, such as had been ordained in Him by the special grace and dispensation of the Divine Love Itself (Cant. 2, 4); in addition to this privilege (which was certainly not a small one) the Saint was naturally of a most noble and courteous disposition, and his manners were most pleasing and charming; all this produced in him a most discreet and loving solicitude, which was yet increased by the great holiness, which he had seen from the beginning in his Spouse and which was ordained by Heaven as the immediate object of all his privileges. Therefore the Saint anxiously attended upon Most Holy Mary and asked Her many times, whether She was tired or fatigued, and in what he could serve Her on the journey. But as the Queen of Heaven already carried within the Virginal chamber the Divine Fire of the Incarnate Word, Holy Joseph, without fathoming the real cause, experienced in his soul new reactions, proceeding from the words and conversations of his Beloved Spouse. He felt himself so inflamed by Divine Love and imbued with such exalted knowledge of the mysteries touched upon in Their conversations, that he was entirely renewed and spiritualized by this burning interior light. The farther They proceeded and the more They conversed about these heavenly things, so much the stronger these affections grew, and he became aware, that it was the words of his Spouse, which thus filled his heart with love and inflamed his will with Divine Ardor.
Having pursued Their journey four days, the Most Holy Mary and Her spouse arrived at the town of Juda, where Zachary and Elizabeth then lived. This was the special and proper name of the place, where the parents of Saint John lived for a while, and therefore the Evangelist Saint Luke specifies it, calling it Juda, although the commentators have commonly believed that this was not the name of the town in which Elizabeth and Zacharias lived, but simply the name of the province, which was called Juda or Judea; just as for the same reason the mountains south of Jerusalem were called the mountains of Judea. But it was expressly revealed to me that the town was called Juda, and that the Evangelist calls it by its proper name; although the learned expositors have understood by this name of Juda the province, in which that town was situated. This confusion arose from the fact that some years after the death of Christ the town Juda was destroyed, and, as the commentators found no trace of such a town, they inferred that Saint Luke meant the province and not a town; thus the great differences of opinion in regard to the place, where Most Holy Mary visited Elizabeth, are easily explained.
It was at this city of Juda and at the house of Zacharias that Most Holy Mary and Joseph arrived. In order to announce Their visit, Saint Joseph hastened ahead of Mary and calling out saluted the inmates of the house, saying: "The Lord be with you and fill your souls with Divine Grace." Elizabeth was already forewarned, for the Lord Himself had informed her in a vision that Mary of Nazareth had departed to visit her. She had also in this vision been made aware that the Heavenly Lady was most pleasing in the eyes of the Most High; while the mystery of Her being the Mother of God Was not revealed to her until the moment, when They both saluted each other in private. But Saint Elizabeth immediately issued forth with a few of her family, in order to welcome Most Holy Mary, who, as the more humble and younger in years, hastened to salute her cousin, saying: "The Lord be with you, my dearest cousin," and Elizabeth answered: "The same Lord reward you for having come in order to afford me this pleasure." With these words they entered the house of Zacharias and what happened I will relate in the following chapter.
When the most holy Mother Mary arrived at the house of Zacharias, the Precursor of Christ had completed the sixth month of his conception in the womb of Saint Elizabeth. The body of the child John had already attained a state of great natural perfection; much greater than that of other children. on account of the miracle of his conception by a sterile mother and on account of the intention of the Most High to make him the depository of greater sanctity than other men (Matth. 11, 11). Yet at that time his soul was yet filled with the darkness of sin, which he had contracted in the same way as the other children of Adam, the first and common father of the human race; and as, according to the universal and general law, mortals cannot receive the light of grace before they have issued forth to the light of the sun (Rom. 5, 7); so, after the first, the original sin contracted by our nature, the womb of the mother must serve as a dungeon or prison for all of us, who have laden upon ourselves this guilt of our father and head, Adam. Christ our Lord resolved to anticipate this great blessing in His Prophet and Precursor by conferring the light of His grace and justification upon him six months after his conception by Saint Elizabeth, in order that he might be distinguished as well in holiness, as he was in his office of Precursor and Baptist.
After the first salutation of Elizabeth by the Most Holy Mary, the two cousins retired, as I have said at the end of the preceding chapter. And immediately the Mother of Grace saluted anew her cousin saying: "May God save thee, my dearest cousin, and may His Divine Light communicate to thee Grace and Life" (Luke 1, 40). At the sound of Most Holy Mary's voice, Saint Elizabeth was filled by the Holy Ghost and so enlightened interiorly, that in one instant she perceived the most exalted mysteries and sacraments. These emotions, and those that at the same time were felt by the Child John in the womb of his mother, were caused by the presence of the Lord Made Flesh in the bridal chamber of Mary's womb, for, making use of the voice of Mary as His instrument, He, as Redeemer, began from that place to use the power given to Him by the eternal Father for the Salvation and Justification of the Souls. And since He now operated as man, though as yet of the diminutive size of one conceived eight days before, He assumed, in admirable humility, the form and posture of one praying and beseeching the Father. He asked in earnest prayer for the justification of His future Precursor and obtained it at the hands of the Blessed Trinity.
This happened before the Most Holy Mary had put Her salutation into words. At the pronunciation of the words mentioned above, God looked upon the child in the womb of Saint Elizabeth, and gave it perfect use of reason, enlightening it with His Divine Light, in order that he might prepare himself by foreknowledge for the blessings which he was to receive. Together with this preparation he was sanctified from Original Sin, made an adopted son of God, and filled with the most abundant graces of the Holy Ghost and with the plenitude of all His gifts; his faculties were sanctified, subjected and subordinated to reason, thus verifying in himself what the Archangel Gabriel had said to Zacharias; that His son would be filled with the Holy Ghost from the womb of his mother (Luke 1, 17). At the same time the fortunate child, looking through the walls of the maternal womb as through clear glass upon the Incarnate Word, and assuming a kneeling posture, adored His Redeemer and Creator, Whom he beheld in Most Holy Mary as if enclosed in a chamber made of the purest crystal. This was the movement of
jubilation, which was felt by his mother Elizabeth as coming from the infant in her womb (Luke 1,44). Many other acts of virtue the child John performed during this interview, exercising faith, hope, charity, worship, gratitude, humility, devotion and all the other virtues possible to him there. From that moment he began to merit and grow in sanctity, without ever losing it and without ever ceasing to exercise it with all the vigor of grace.
Saint Elizabeth was instructed at the same time in the mystery of the Incarnation, the sanctification of her own son and the sacramental purpose of this new wonder. She also became aware of the virginal purity and of the dignity of the Most Holy Mary. On this occasion, the Heavenly Queen, being absorbed in the vision of the Divinity and of the mysteries operated by it through Her Most Holy Son, became entirely Godlike, filled with the clear light of the Divine gifts which She participated; and thus filled with majesty Saint Elizabeth saw Her. She saw the Word made man as through a most pure and clear glass in the Virginal Chamber, lying as it were on a couch of burning and enlivened crystal.
Filled with admiration at what She saw and heard in regard to these Divine mysteries, Saint Elizabeth was wrapt in the joy of the Holy Ghost; and, looking upon the Queen of the world and what was contained in Her, she burst forth in loud voice of praise, pronouncing the words reported to us by Saint Luke: "Blessed are Thou among women and blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb, and whence is this to me, that the Mother of My Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of Thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy, and blessed art Thou, that has believed, because those things shall be accomplished, that were spoken to Thee by the Lord." In these prophetic words Saint Elizabeth rehearsed the noble privileges of Most Holy Mary, perceiving by the Divine Light what the power of the Lord had done in Her, what He now performed and, what He was to accomplish through Her in time to come. All this also the child John perceived and understood, while listening to the words of his mother; for she was enlightened for the purpose of his sanctification, and since he could not from his place in the womb bless and thank her by word of mouth, she, both for herself and for her son, extolled the Most Holy Mary as being the instrument of their good fortune.
These words of praise, pronounced by Saint Elizabeth were referred by the Mother of Wisdom and humility to the Creator; and in the sweetest and softest voice She intoned the Magnificat as recorded by Saint Luke (Ch. 1,46-55).
46. My soul doth magnify the Lord;
47. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48. Because He hath regarded the humility of His Handmaid;
for behold from henceforth all generations shall call Me Blessed.
49. Because He that is mighty hath done great things to Me; and holy is His Name.
50. And His mercy is from generation unto generation to them that fear Him.
51. He hath showed might in His arm;
He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
52. He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble.
53. He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He hath sent empty away.
54. He hath received Israel, his servant, being mindful of His mercy;
55. As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his seed forever.
Just as Saint Elizabeth was the first one who heard this sweet canticle from the mouth of Most Holy Mary, so she was also the first one who understood it and, by means of her infused knowledge, commented upon it. She penetrated some of the great mysteries, which its Authoress expressed therein in so few sentences. The Soul of Most Holy Mary magnified the Lord for the excellence of His Infinite Essence; to Him She referred and yielded all glory and praise (1 Tim. 1, 17), both for the beginning and the accomplishment of Her works. She knew and confessed that in God alone every creature should glory and rejoice, since He alone is their entire happiness and salvation (2 Cor. 10, 17). She confessed also the equity and magnificence of the Most High in attending to the humble and in conferring upon them His abundant Spirit of Divine Love (Ps. 137, 6). She saw how worthy of mortals it is to perceive, understand and ponder the gifts that were conferred on the humility of Her, whom all nations were to call Blessed, and how all the humble ones, each one according to his degree, could share the same good fortune. By one word also She expressed all the mercies, benefits and blessings, which the Almighty showered upon Her in His Holy and Wonderful Name; for She calls them altogether "great things" since there was nothing small about anything that referred to This Great Queen and Lady.
And as the Mercies of the Most High overflowed from Mary's plenitude to the whole human race, and as She was the "Portal of Heaven," through which they issued and continue to issue, and through which we are to enter into the participation of the Divinity; therefore She confessed, that the Mercy of the Lord in regard to Her is spread out over all the generations, communicating itself to them that fear Him. And just as the infinite mercies raise up the humble and seek out those that fear God; so also the powerful arm of Divine Justice scatters and destroys those who are proud in the mind of their heart, and hurls them from their thrones in order to set in their place the poor and lowly. This justice of the Lord was exercised in wonderful splendor and glory upon the chief of all the proud, Lucifer and his followers, when the Almighty Arm of God scattered and hurled them (because they themselves precipitated themselves) from their exalted seats which befitted their angelic natures and their graces, and which they occupied according to the original (Isaias 14; Apoc. 12) decree of the Divine Love. For by it He intended that all should be blessed (1 Tim. 2, 4) while they, in trying to ascend in their vain pride to positions, which they neither could attain nor should aspire to, on the contrary cast themselves from those which they occupied (Isaias 14, 13).
When it was time to come forth from their retirement, Saint Elizabeth offered herself and her whole family and all her house for the service of the Queen of Heaven. She asked Her to accept, as a quiet retreat, the room which she herself was accustomed to use for her prayers, and which was much retired and accommodated to that purpose. The Heavenly Princess accepted the chamber with humble thanks, and made use of it for recollecting Herself and sleeping therein, and no one ever entered it, except the two cousins. As for the rest She offered to serve and assist Elizabeth as a handmaid, for She said, that this was the purpose of visiting her and consoling her. O what friendship is so true, so sweet and inseparable, as that which is formed by the great bond of the Divine Love! How admirable is the Lord in manifesting this great sacrament of the Incarnation to three women before He would make it known to anyone else in the human race! For the first was Saint Anne, as I have said in its place; the second one was Her Daughter and the Mother of the Word, Most Holy Mary; the third one was Saint Elizabeth, and conjointly with Her, her son, for he being yet in the womb of his mother, cannot be considered as distinct from her. Thus "the foolishness of God is wiser than men." as Saint Paul says.
The Most Holy Mary and Elizabeth came forth from their retirement at nightfall, having passed a long time together; and the Queen saw Zacharias standing before Her in his muteness, and She asked him for his blessing as from a priest of the Lord, which the Saint also gave to Her. Yet, although She tenderly pitied him for his affliction, She did not exert Her power to cure him, because She knew the mysterious occasion of his dumbness; yet She offered a prayer for him. Saint Elizabeth, who already knew the good fortune of the most chaste spouse Joseph, although he himself as yet was not aware of it, entertained and served him with great reverence and highest esteem. After staying three days in the house of Zacharias, however, he asked permission of his Heavenly Spouse Mary to return to Nazareth and leave Her in the company of Saint Elizabeth in order to assist her in her pregnancy. The holy husband left them with the understanding that he was to return in order to accompany the Queen home as soon as they should give him notice; Saint Elizabeth offered him some presents to take home with him; but he would take only a small part of them, yielding only to their earnest solicitations, for this man of God was not only a lover of poverty, but was possessed of a magnanimous and noble heart. Therewith he pursued his way back to Nazareth, taking along with him the little beast of burden, which they had brought with them. At home, in the absence of his Spouse, he was served by a neighboring woman and cousin of his, who, also when Most Holy Mary was at home, was wont to come and go on the necessary errands outside of the house. When the Precursor John had been sanctified and Saint Elizabeth. his mother, had been endowed with such great gifts and blessings, and when thus the principal object of Mary's visit was fulfilled, the great Queen proceeded to arrange Her daily life in the house of Zacharias; for Her occupations could not be uniformly the same as those She was accustomed to in Her own house. In order to direct Her desire by the guidance of the Holy Ghost She retired and placed Herself in the presence of the Most High, asking Him as usual to guide Her and direct Her in that which She was to do during Her stay in the house of His servants Elizabeth and Zacharias; ~ that She might in all things be pleasing to Him and fulfill entirely His pleasure. The Lord heard Her petition and answered by saying: "My Spouse and my Dove, I will direct all Thy actions and I will direct thy footsteps in the fulfillment of My service and pleasure, and I will make known to Thee the day on which I wish Thee to return to Thy home. In the meanwhile remain in the house of My servant Elizabeth and converse with her. As for the rest, continue Thy exercises and prayers, especially for the salvation of men, and pray also, that I withhold My justice in dealing with their incessant offenses against My bounty. Conjointly with Thy prayers Thou shalt offer .to Me The Lamb without spot (1 Pet. 1, 19) which thou bearest in Thy womb and which takes away the sins of the world (John 1, 291). Let these now be thy occupations."
In conformity with this instruction and new mandate of the Most High, the Princess of Heaven ordered all Her occupations in the house of Her cousin Elizabeth. She rose up at midnight in accordance with Her former custom, spending the hours in the continued contemplation of the Divine Mysteries and giving to waking and sleep the time, which most perfectly and exactly agreed with the natural state and conditions of Her body. In labor and repose She continued to receive new favors, illuminations, exaltation and caresses of the Lord. During these three months She had many visions of the Divinity, mostly abstractive in kind. More frequent still were the visions of the Most Holy Humanity of the Word in its hypostatic union; for Her virginal womb, in which She bore Him, served Her as Her continual altar and sanctuary. She beheld the daily growth of that Sacred Body. By this experience and by the sacraments, which every day were made manifest to Her in the boundless fields of the Divine power and essence, the spirit of this exalted Lady expanded to vast proportions. Many times would She have been consumed and have died by the violence of Her affections, if She had not been strengthened by the power of the Lord. To these occupations, which were concealed from all, She added those, which the service and consolation of Her cousin Elizabeth demanded, although She did not apply one moment more to them, than charity required. These fulfilled, She turned immediately to Her solitude and recollection, where She could pour out the more freely Her spirit before the Lord.