Because October is the month of the Rosary, I’ve been thinking about the mysteries of the Rosary lately. Today, I talked to the Sisters about the second joyful mystery — the Visit of Our Blessed Mother to her cousin, Saint Elizabeth who was expecting the birth of Saint John the Baptist.
Before I say anything else, I want to urge you to read, and meditate on, the poem by the Trappist author, Thomas Merton, which is entitled “The Quickening of Saint John the Baptist.” I find it beautiful, and very helpful in praying the second joyful mystery of Our Lady’s Rosary.
The visit that Our Lady made to the home of her kinfolks, Zachary the Jewish priest and his wife, Elizabeth, was the occasion for her beautiful prayer which we usually call “the Magnificat,” from the first word in Latin: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” In that prayer, the Mother of our Lord marvels at what great things God has done for her, and she says, in wondering prophecy, “From henceforth, all generations will call me blessed.” Thus every time we recite the Magnificat, which the clergy, the religious, and many of the laity do each day in the Liturgy of the Hours, we are fulfilling Our Lady’s prophecy: we are calling her blessed and rejoicing in the fact that God chose to become a human being, and he chose Mary, the little virgin of Nazareth, as the means by which he would enter the human race and our family of mankind.
When the archangel Gabriel appeared to the priest Zachary, he foretold that Zachary and his wife would have a baby even though she was too old to conceive naturally. The archangel went on to say: Even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. Now, the young virgin Mary of Nazareth enters the home of the elderly Elizabeth of Judea. The two women embrace, and as the unborn children whom they bear are pressed together in that embrace, the baby of Elizabeth leaps for joy as he greets the baby of Mary. Thus, even before their births, John the Precursor is heralding Jesus the Savior, and the New Testament is beginning with joy and with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon humankind.
Merton says, in his poem:
Sing in your cell, small anchorite (hermit)!
How did you see her in the eyeless dark?
What secret syllable
Woke your young faith to the mad truth
That an unborn baby could be washed in the Spirit of God?
So as we contemplate this scene, we think of Zachary who has been struck deaf and dumb because of his unwillingness to believe the message of the archangel; we think of the joy of his wife, who has long since resigned herself to being childless, and is now thrilled at the sensation of a baby stirring within her; we think of Our Blessed Lady, filled with wonder that God has chosen HER to be the mother of the Messiah; and we think of the two unborn babies, one sanctifying the other, one of whom will one day baptize the other. A tremendous moment! An event that stands at the beginning of a new world of grace and redemption. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.