This feast commemorates the visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Elizabeth, in the mountains about six miles west of Jerusalem, upon being told by the Angel Gabriel that her aged cousin was with child.
The feast was instituted in 1389 by Urban VI to obtain the end of the Western schism, and it was inserted in the Roman Calendar on July 2, the date on which it had already been celebrated by Franciscans since 1263.
The feast has now been assigned to the last day of May, between the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and the Birth of St. John the Baptist, to conform more closely to the Gospel account.
In his great Apostolic Letter on Devotion to Mary, Pope Paul VI summarized this feast as follows: “The Liturgy recalls the Blessed Virgin Mary carrying her Son within her, and visiting Elizabeth to offer charitable assistance and to proclaim the mercy of God the Savior.”
“Mary set out and journeyed in haste into the hill country to a town of Judah, where she entered Zachariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. But who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? Behold, the moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who believed that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.’
“Then Mary said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit finds joy in God my Savior’ ” (Luke 1:39-47).
PRAYER: Almighty and eternal God, under Your inspiration the Virgin Mary, pregnant with Your Son, visited St. Elizabeth. Grant that we may follow the guidance of the Spirit and praise You eternally with her in heaven. Amen.