[Context: I only had to preach this at an English Mass, so I did not translate it into Spanish. ¡Lo siento!]
Picture of Mary from the Church of the Visitation [this is a copyrighted image, which is why it has the watermark. But I /really/ did not want to pay $50, just to get the rights to use it on this post.]
Picture of the window at St. Mary’s in Centralia, WA, which is similar.
One of my favorite religious images in the entire world is the image of Mary behind the main altar at the Church of the Visitation outside of Jerusalem, the church built on the very spot where our Gospel today takes place.
I love that image of Mary because she is not looking meek and lowly like so many of our images of the Blessed Virgin. Instead, she is shown walking out of the desert, one foot in front of the other, holding her hands up and out. And most importantly, her head is held high, with a firm, purposefully gaze down at the congregation.
It is this gaze that is so striking to me. When Mary visits Elizabeth in this Gospel, Mary has already been informed that she will be the mother of the Savior of the World. She is obviously overwhelmed and humbled by so great an honor, and she absolutely admits her lowliness before God in this Gospel. And she is not prideful, because she understands her own smallness in the face of so great a mission. But I hate to think of her walking around all mopey, eyes constantly downcast, like she is saying “oh, pay no attention to me, I am just a speck of dust”. This woman is the Mother of God, and she knows it. I should hope that she has a purposeful gaze, because she has been given the most important mission ever: to birth and raise God himself.
Make no mistake, Mary was confident and strong and courageous. She accepted her mission under threat of divorce and stoning. She accepted her mission despite the ominous warnings of Simeon that a sword would pierce her heart. She continued her mission even when it led her to stand at the foot of her son’s cross. Mary is a woman of mission, and it is so rare that we show this side of her!
I think this is why she also has open hands and a foot stepping forward. She is offering herself in service to Elizabeth, certainly, but also to any and all people who walk into that church in Jerusalem, and really, anyone in the worldwide Church who seeks her assistance. Mary is a woman of mission.
And that mission continued even after her time on Earth was completed. Sure, Mary was no longer needed to physically raise and educate Jesus, but the mission was never purely physical. Mary’s mission was to bring Jesus into the world and to lead people to him. She was Assumed into Heave and crowned Queen of Heaven she that should could continue to fulfill exactly this mission until the end of time.
Consider our first reading, about the woman in the sky giving birth. For the first few centuries of Christianity, our theologians believed that the woman in the sky represented the Church, trying to bring forth the Gospel. Current theologians will often say that the woman in the sky is an image of Mary. Both are correct, as the mission of Mary is exactly the same as the mission of the Church: to bring Jesus into the world, and to lead others to him. And, since we are part of the Church, this is our mission, too: to bring Jesus into the world, and to lead others to him. May we pursue this mission with the boldness, confidence, and courage of Mary.