Christian devotion to Mary has a long history. Moreover, devotions to the virgin mother of our Saviour have taken innumerable forms in the course of this history.
The First Council of Ephesus (431 AD) was the first council with bishops attending from the Christian East and West to define Mary as theotokos, Greek for “God-bearer.” This definition was controversial at the time. However, Ephesus I was not a council about Mary so much as it was about Christ. The Son of God, Ephesus I said, was one person of the Trinity, but in two natures, divine and human. Therefore, Mary, who bore God’s Son, not only bore a human child in whom God dwelt, but God who, through the work of the Holy Spirit, had taken our human nature.
As Ephesus I began to show by naming Mary theotokos, all our Marian titles and devotions point beyond Mary to her Son; to God’s Son, our Lord. But they also describe who we are. Mary is first among the disciples of Christ and first among the saints, but we are all called to be disciples and saints. Mary has mediated this vocation from the very beginning. In the Biblical account of the Wedding at Cana, for instance, Mary directs the servants to follow her Son’s instructions, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). We, as servants and then as friends of Christ (Jn 15:15), are thus invited to heed these words of Mary. Mary is the theotokos; in Baptism we are made theotokoi, “God-bearers,” after Mary, the mother of the God-man and our mother in faith.
For this reason, Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, affirmed that “true devotion... proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to know the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to a filial love toward our mother and to the imitation of her virtues” (LG, 67).
The Story of the Visitation
Our Parish Feast Day is celebrated on May 31. The Feast is of medieval origin and was only universally adopted in 1389. In 1969, Pope Paul VI moved the celebration to May 31, between the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and that of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, so that it would harmonize better with the Gospel story.
The Visitation is the encounter of the Virgin Mary and Elizabeth as recorded in the Gospel of Luke 1:39-56. Mary, having heard at the Annunciation thru the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth was six months pregnant, left her home to visit her. Elizabeth and John the Baptist were inspired by the Holy Spirit at her arrival; and Elizabeth, seeing Mary’s faithfulness, cared for her giving her the opportunity to nourish the gift of life, Jesus, within her. Mary, surrounded by Elizabeth’s love, pronounced the "Magnificat". It is the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, with the Spiritual Fruit of a Love of Neighbour.
Thus as a parish community dedicated to Mary, under the title of Our Lady of the Visitation, this Feast reminds us of our call to love our neighbour, to be welcoming and to provide a place for others to grow nourishing the Lord within them.