02 July 2012

Feast of the Visitation

Lutheran Service Book lists the Visitation as one of the "principal feasts of Christ."  Like the Transfiguration, it falls differently depending upon the lectionary system one uses:  in the three year cycle, it is observed on May 31; in the one year cycle, it is observed today.  We recognized it in Chapel today at the International Center.  It is a relatively late-comer to the feast days, but by the time of the Reformation it was rather set on July 2 and continued to be observed in most Lutheran Church Orders.  Luther has a fine homily on the feast in his House Postils (III:341ff.).  Here's an excerpt:

For us, indeed, it is an occasion to thank God for the glorious revelation which occurred on this day, that Elisabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit; and although till now she knows nothing about Christ and his conception, she here declares and openly confesses that Mary is in truth the mother of her Lord and God.  And John leaps in his mother's womb in witness to his Lord, while Mary sings her beautiful song of praise, the Magnificat, showing most excellently the profundity of her understanding.  We still repeat it after her.  It expresses the reason for us to celebrate, to learn it, and thank God for it.  The purpose for the pope's celebration is to invoke Mary; but our purpose is to praise and thank God in accordance with the example of the beloved Virgin, so that we celebrate just as she did.

On this day, we pray in our churches: 

Almighty God, You chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your gracious regard for the poor and lowly and despised.  Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and faith, and so be made one with Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

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