Saturday, May 31, 2008
The Visitation of Our Lady
Today, we celebrate the feast of the Visitation of Our Lady to S. Elizabeth. The event is recorded in Luke 1:39-56. Having heard that her older cousin Elizabeth (who should be beyond child-bearing age) is six months pregnant, Mary goes to visit her in the hill country. We know that babies begin to hear in the womb at about 20 weeks. When Mary arrives, Elizabeth feels the baby kicking and says that the sound of Mary's voice is giving her baby cause to jump for joy in the womb.
I have wondered about the date of the feast. In the old kalendar, it was on July 2nd. In the new Kalendar, is it on May 31st. The old date of July 2 goes back to 1389 when Pope Urban VI established it as a feast to be kept throughout the Western Church. It was moved to May 31 in 1969 by Pope Paul VI in the revision of the kalendar. The date chosen was May 31st, which was already the minor commemoration of Mary as Queen of the Apostles. It would round out the month of May, which is particularly set aside for devotion to the Virgin. It would also bring the celebration in line with the timing of Christmas (six months before) and Annunciation (three months after) for Mary and for Elizabeth, it would coincide with the conception (six months after) and nativity (three months before) of John the Baptist.