31 May 2007

The Solemnity of the Visitation

Photo of the Chapel window -- Copyright: Michael Hoyt (used with permission and gratitude).

Most of us who are avowed Christians are good at giving. Generous sharing of time, talent and resources is an attractive and endearing quality which we are taught to practice from when we are children. What some of us "good givers" are not always so skilled at doing is receiving graciously. It is easy for most of us to be the generous giver and offer to do a favor, run an errand, etc. It is not always so easy for us to accept the kindness of others. Being a good recipient is a mark of virtue -- the little virtue of graciousness. There are many people who are very generous but who are not gracious in the face of others' generosity. The little virtue of graciousness is an attractive virtue to cultivate.

In today's Gospel for the Solemnity of the Visitation (Feast for the Church, Solemnity for our Order) we have an example of a gracious recipient in the person of Elizabeth. Scholars and historians help us to imagine the enormity of the journey that Mary undertook after the Annunciation; a three day walk into the hill country of Judah to Ein Karim. Perhaps some of us, in Elizabeth's sandals, might have responded differently: "Mary, what on earth are you doing here?" or "Do you know how dangerous it was for you to travel here? You shouldn't have!" Instead, Elizabeth responds, "Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy!" Elizabeth is the portrait of graciousness in her welcome to Mary. A lesson for all of us who seek to follow the Lord more closely. The next time someone offers to give us a ride, do a chore, pick up a check, let us remember that gracious gratitude is a virtuous way to meet the generosity of another.
Referring to the founding of our first Monastery -- but equally descriptive of the mystery for which it was named -- Saint Francis de Sales remarks:
"The spirit of the Visitation is one of humility towards God and gentleness and sweetness towards our neighbor."

No comments: