Celebrate the two most pro-life women in the Bible today
Editor's note: Today, May 31, Christians around the world celebrate the feast of "The Visitation," the day when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was then pregnant with John the Baptist.
May 31, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The first woman found herself in the midst of a surprise pregnancy. The second was thought to be barren but conceived in her old age. By today’s standards, both babies were prime candidates for abortion, the first because unplanned to an unmarried mother, the second because of risk factors arising from the age of the mother.
Had Mary and Elizabeth visited a contemporary OBGYN, they surely would have been told of their ‘options’. Instead, after the angel departed from Mary, she made haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth because the angel told her that she was expecting.
The most beautiful pro-life moment in the Gospel unfolds as the two pregnant women greet one another. When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe in her womb literally leaped for joy.
St. Luke writes that Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, exclaimed with a loud cry: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! (Luke 1:42)” Catholics love this passage so much that they repeat it in every “Hail Mary” as part of the meditative prayer called The Rosary.
Elizabeth continues: “For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.”
When she said this, Elizabeth showed that she was not deluded by ideologies of ‘choice’. She did not say that the “blob of tissue,” “product of conception,” or “fetus,” made a stirring inside of her. No, it was a babe who leaped, a baby who moved his hands and feat with such agitation at the approach of Mary carrying Jesus within her that that his mother was shocked and amazed.
It is interesting to note that Mary at that time was carrying within her the newly conceived Jesus. When Mary conceived, the angel told her that Elizabeth was in her “sixth month” (Luke 1:36) of pregnancy. Mary then went to visit Elizabeth and stayed with her “about three months,” probably to help her with the birth and to remain with her a few weeks afterwards. Given that pregnancy lasts about nine months, this means that Mary was likely between 2-4 weeks pregnant with Jesus when the greeting between the two women took place.
For Elizabeth, the 2-4 week-old “fruit” in the womb of Mary was not a ‘potentially viable’ human, but someone she recognized as “my Lord”. She recognized the active role of the non-viable Jesus — whose body was then developing at approximately one million cells per second — as Lord, Saviour, Redeemer of mankind. It is interesting to note that at his young stage, Jesus would not have been protected in today’s developed countries by the 20 week gestational limits put in place — or proposed by people with good intentions — to restrict abortion.
Reflecting on this biblical passage, the ancient and renowned Fathers of the Church recognized that Jesus in the womb of Mary sanctified the baby in the womb of Elizabeth, setting him apart for a special mission. They recognized that this baby “leaped for joy” precisely because Jesus made him holy right at the moment of the greeting. They also saw in this moment an allusion to Mary’s role in salvation as one who instrumentally bears Christ’s saving power to others.
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This holy happy baby of course was John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the greatest man of all who has ever lived (Luke 7:28). Jesus said this of John most likely because John understood and lived fully the Christian life. “He must increase [in me], but I [my ego] must decrease, (John 3:30)” John once said about the baby who made him leap. In a nutshell, Christianity is all about dying to self and “putting on Christ” so that one can make a sincere gift of self to others.
The feast of the Visitation today aptly reveals why the Gospel, i.e., the Good News, has been hailed as the “Gospel of Life”.