The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth

The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth

The Feast of the Visitation focuses on the story recounted in Luke 1:39-56, when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth.

The feast is of medieval origin. It was being observed by the Order of Friars Minor but in 1263 St Bonaventure recommended it to the Franciscan order, who adopted it.  It was made a church-wide celebration in 1389 by Pope Urban VI.  At that time it was celebrated on July 2nd.  It was moved to 31 May in 1969, by Pope Paul VI to be on the last day on the month of Mary (May).  

The placement of the feast is a little out of sync with the account given by Luke, which suggests Mary “hurried” (Luke 1:39) to visit Elizabeth who was already six months pregnant (Luke 1:36).  Mary stayed for 3 months (Luke 1:56).  However the date ensures that Mary and Elizabeth were together and the Feast gives us an opportunity to contemplate the role and significance of the two women in the salvation story, and Mary’s rejoicing at what God was doing in the world through the words of the Magnificat.

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