The Word Among Us

Prayer Resources

Mary Visits Elizabeth

A Mystery of Encounter

By: Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, SJ

This reflection appears towards the end of Cardinal Martini’s thought-provoking chapter on the Visitation in "The Gospel Way of Mary: A Journey of Trust and Surrender".

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.

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a former archbishop of Milan, is a noted biblical scholar now working at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem. To purchase The Gospel Way of Mary and view another excerpt, go to