Why Does Mary Visit Her Cousin Elizabeth?

Q:  Why does Mary visit her cousin Elizabeth? It doesn’t make sense to me for a pregnant woman to take such a long journey.

Any woman who has traveled while pregnant can tell you that it isn’t fun. For Mary, the trip would have been especially grueling: She traveled to a town 80 miles away, likely on a donkey, without the comfort of paved roads, air conditioning, or shock absorbers.

Why does she do it? Well, think about what has just happened: She’s been told that she is pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. She’s also learned that her cousin Elizabeth, believed to be too old to conceive, is expecting as well. Mary must have been bursting to talk to a woman who could personally understand her excitement, her wonder, and probably her nervousness, too.

Mary’s trip also demonstrates the call of community. Sometimes, our physical presence is the best gift we can give another person. Remember, too, that Mary is carrying Christ inside her, which gives another layer of meaning to her decision to offer support to her cousin. Pope John Paul II acknowledged this in a 1997 homily when he reflected on the Visitation and said, “In this act of human solidarity, Mary demonstrated that authentic charity which grows within us when Christ is present.”

Ultimately, the Visitation reminds us that no one is an island. We all live and thrive in relation to others. Sometimes we give in these encounters, and sometimes we receive. And often, as in the Visitation, it’s a beautiful combination of the two.

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