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,
The Story of the
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