2011
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Feast of the Visitation Wraps up Month Dedicated to Mary

Catholics around the world honor Mary, mother of Jesus, during the month of May which culminates in the Feast of the Visitation on May 31.

In Israel, observances for the Feast center at a church on the outskirts of Jerusalem dedicated to the visitation  – when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth. The Church of the Visitation is in Ein Karem, the village where Elizabeth and Zechariah, parents of John the Baptist, lived.

While daily masses are devoted to Mary, the Visitation day features a special mass to honor the meeting of the two cousins, Mary and Elizabeth, who were both expecting. The Feast is based on Luke 1.

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’” Luke 1:39-45

Father Athanasius Macora told Travelujah that between the picturesque, forested town of Ein Karem and the beautiful Church of the Visitation the mass there is one of his personal favorites.

“It is a joyous liturgy,” he said. “The visitation is quite a significant part of the Gospel.”

The Church of the Visitation was bought by the Franciscans in 1679. The present church was restored in 1955 on top of ancient church remains. The Crusaders recognized the site as the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth.

The mass begins at 9 a.m. and is immediately followed by a procession from the church, outside to the crypt below the church. In afternoon at 4:30 p.m. there is a mass procession in the Old City from St. Saviour’s Monastery near New Gate to the Frere’s school to the Latin Patriarchate and then back to St. Saviour’s. Many local Catholics participate.
The passage in Luke concludes with Mary’s Song, the Magnificat, written is inscribed in 41 languages on one wall of the church: “And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.’ Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” Luke 1:46-56

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