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May 16, 2019

Mary’s May Crowning: Part 2, the Visitation

Dr. Andrew Swafford

This is the second part of a series that will follow the biblical story of Mary throughout May. To honor her during her month, we are diving deeper into the mysteries of the Rosary where Mary is mentioned in the corresponding Scripture passage—thereby offering reflections on the Blessed Mother’s role through the Gospels.

Need to catch up? You can find the first part of the series here.

The Visitation

After the Annunciation, Mary arises “with haste” (Luke 1:39) to visit Elizabeth, who greets her with familiar words:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

(Luke 1:42)

St. Luke then depicts Mary’s journey in a manner reminiscent of David’s bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6. Such a parallel would be enormously significant, since the Ark was the holiest object in all of Israel—made holy because it bore the very presence of God; overlaid with gold (Ezekiel 25:11), it held the Ten Commandments, a jar that held the manna, and Aaron’s high priestly rod (Hebrews 9:4). Likewise, Mary bears Jesus who is the Word of God Incarnate, the bread of life, and eternal high priest.

Moreover, the following parallels in both journeys emerge: David and Mary “arose and went” (2 Samuel 6:2; Luke 1:39); David leaps before the ark, as John leaps in the womb of Elizabeth (2 Samuel 6:16b; Luke 1:41); David asks, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me” (2 Samuel 6:9), as Elizabeth asks how can “the mother of my Lord come to me?” (Luke 1:43); the Ark remains at the house of Obed-edom three months (2 Samuel 6:11), just as Mary remained at the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth three months (Luke 1:56).

It’s hard to overstate what these parallels would mean: no Jew in the ancient world could have proclaimed his love for God and yet been indifferent to the Ark.

Blessed Is She

And just in case we missed it, St. Luke uses a very rare word in Luke 1:42 to describe how Elizabeth “exclaimed” (anaphoneo) such praises before Mary. This Greek word occurs only here in the New Testament, and only five times in the entire Greek Old Testament—every single time with reference to Levites praising the Ark of the Covenant (see 1 Chronicles 15:28; 16:4, 5, 42; 2 Chronicles 5:13; also see Scott Hahn’s book, Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire, page 65). The reference, then, is unmistakable: here we have once again a Levite—in Elizabeth (see Luke 1:5)—praising the Ark of the New Covenant.

Mary is revered for what God has done in and through her; but she is also called “blessed” for her great faith:

“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45).

Read Luke 1:39-56

Learn How to Pray Like Mary with Sonja Corbitt’s upcoming book.

You may also enjoy Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother.

About Andrew Swafford

Dr. Andrew Swafford is associate professor of theology at Benedictine College. He is general editor and contributor to The Great Adventure Catholic Bible, published by Ascension. Swafford is author of Nature and GraceJohn Paul II to Aristotle and Back Again, and Spiritual Survival in the Modern World. He holds a doctorate in Sacred Theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake and a master’s degree in Old Testament & Semitic Languages from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, Academy of Catholic Theology, and a senior fellow at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He lives with his wife Sarah and their four children in Atchison, Kansas.

Keep an eye out for his latest project with Ascension, a new Romans study which will arrive in the summer of 2019.

This article was first published on the Ascension Blog’s former home, The Great Adventure Blog, in May 2015.

Painting by Jerónimo Ezquerra, sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

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