In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!.... And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.
(Luke 1:39-42, 46-56)
The most beautiful part of this story, which we can appreciate as soon as we reflect on it, is how much is happening in Mary that had been kept in her heart until the moment of visiting her cousin—an ineffable secret, but one that is weighty and overwhelming from the human point of view.
We, too, have carried heavy burdens that we cannot talk about: our problems as well as the endless suffering that others have confided in us or that they have let us glimpse. It should not be difficult, then, to understand something about Mary who had a very wonderful secret that was nonetheless burdensome: her virginity, her relationship with Joseph, the new direction of her life, the mystery that she was beginning to enter into and that would be fully disclosed later through the cross and resurrection of her Son.
With Elizabeth, all of a sudden, she feels herself understood. She is aware that another person, without any need for her to explain herself, knows her secret, confirms it to her, and assures her that she was right to trust. It is almost as though Elizabeth is saying, “Be encouraged. I have understood you. Do not be afraid; you are on the right path. I, too, am about to have a son.”
Mary, in turn, bursts forth poetically and expresses all that she has kept inside because no one would have understood its significance: “And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord. … ’” (Luke 1:46-55). The Magnificat is the high point of a good relationship that allowed what Mary was keeping in her heart to emerge.
Let us ponder the many things we have experienced that seemed to overwhelm us at first, but later, when they found a genuine outlet, revealed themselves to be fountains of truth.
This is a selection from The Gospel Way of Mary, by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini (The Word Among Us Press, 2011).