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Maronite icon written by Fr Abdo Badwi (USEK, Lebanon) tells the great story of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. Image: Fr Abdo Badwi
Maronite icon written by Fr Abdo Badwi (USEK, Lebanon) tells the great story of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. Image: Fr Abdo Badwi

By Joseph Wehbe

Alleluia! Something glorious is coming our way. He who fulfils all our longings and causes us to leap for joy! That is exactly what the event of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth illustrates so beautifully.

The joy experienced in this encounter is not merely one of human emotion, but one of divine inspiration. In the third verse of the entrance hymn of the divine offering, celebrated on the Sunday and week of the visitation in the Maronite Liturgy, Elizabeth proclaims to Mary “O Blessed Mary! John my child has leapt for joy, in longing for Christ, your Son, our Lord.”

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Why did John leap for Joy? It is proclaimed in the Prayer of Forgiveness that Jesus while still in the womb of Mary his mother, filled John with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and the hills were also filled with joy and gladness. From longing to leaping.

The psalm of the reading then goes on to say that, at this visit, “John is baptised in the womb.” Fun fact: the lyrics of the liturgical Maronite hymns were and still are where Maronite theology is found.

John the Baptist, who is the one to prepare the way of the Lord, will do so through baptism (hence his name). The gift John was given by Jesus, the joy of being filled with the Holy Spirit, he is called to share.

Yet it is through Jesus, who baptised John with the Holy Spirit, that one can be baptised by the Holy Spirit. As John later in his life, “I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water said to me, the man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One” (Jn 1:33).

We are all called to be types of John through our baptism and confirmation, when we received the joy of the Holy Spirit. We are invited to encounter Jesus, who is carried in the womb of Mary, by knowing who Jesus is in a personal way. We do this by encountering him in those who we meet, visit and are called to help.

Mary teaches us how to do this not only through her intention of visiting Elizabeth but more so through her response to the angel’s message, after receiving the news that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit and her cousin Elizabeth had also conceived, she “arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39).

Pope Francis in his message for the 37th World Youth Day 2023 says, “after the Annunciation, Mary could have focused on herself and her own worries and fears about her new condition. Instead, she entrusted herself completely to God. Her thoughts turned to Elizabeth. She got up and went forth, into the world of life and movement.”

These words from the Holy Father are personally words of deep encouragement as I was present at that Mass by the river, surrounded by millions of young Catholics, clergy, religious and lay members of the global church. This is not only a message of hope but a call for all to say our yes with Mary.

As we continue to journey toward the glorious birth of our Lord, let us surrender ourselves completely to God and be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit to go with haste toward the encounters God has planned for us. Let the Holy Spirit reveal the unique gift he has given to each of us and by this, we will leap for joy and proclaim our Magnificat together with Mary of the visitation.

Joseph Wehbe is an Assistant Chaplain at Westmead Hospital and a School Learning Support Officer at a local public school. He also assists with adult faith formation at St Raymond’s Maronite Parish in Auburn NSW.

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