The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth Part 1
From THE MYSTICAL CITY OF GOD, Ven. Mary Agreda
TAN Books and Publishers; With Ecclesiastical Appr.
“And Mary rising up in those days,” says the sacred text, “went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda” (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 and 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 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 …