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When Pregnancy Met Pregnancy | Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen on The Visitation | From
The World's First Love | Ignatius Insight
One of the most beautiful moments in history was that when pregnancy met
pregnancy when childbearers became the first heralds of the King of Kings. All
pagan religions begin with the teachings of adults, but Christianity begins
with the birth of a Child. From that day to this, Christians have ever been the
defenders of the family and the love of generation. If we ever sat down to
write out what we would expect the Infinite God to do, certainly the last thing
we would expect would be to see Him imprisoned in a carnal ciborium for nine months;
and the next to last thing we would expect is that the "greatest man ever
born of woman" while yet in his mother's womb, would salute the yet
imprisoned God-man. But this is precisely what took place in the Visitation.
At the Annunciation the archangel told Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth, was
about to become the mother of John the Baptist. Mary was then a young girl, but
her cousin was ''advanced in years," that is, quite beyond the normal age
of conceiving. "See, moreover, how it fares with thy cousin Elizabeth; she
is old, yet she too has conceived a son; she who was reproached with barrenness
is now in her sixth month, to prove that nothing is impossible with God. And
Mary said, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according
to thy word.' And with that the angel left her." (Luke 1:36-38)
The birth of Christ is without regard to man; the birth of John the Baptist is
without regard to age! "Nothing is impossible with God." The
Scripture continues the story: "In the days that followed, Mary rose up
and went with all haste to a city of Juda, in the hill country where Zachary
dwelt; and entering in she gave Elizabeth greeting. No sooner had Elizabeth
heard Mary's greeting, than the child leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth herself
was filled with the Holy Ghost; so that she cried out with a loud voice,
"Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. How
have I deserved to be thus visited by the mother of my Lord? Why, as soon as
ever the voice of thy greeting sounded in my ears, the child in my womb leaped
for joy. Blessed art thou for thy believing; the message that was brought to
thee from the Lord shall have fulfillment." (Luke 1:39-45)
Mary "went with all haste"; she is always in a hurry to do good. With
deliberate speed she becomes the first nurse of Christian civilization. The
woman hastens to meet a woman. They serve best their neighbor who bear the
Christ within their hearts and souls. Bearing in herself the Secret of Salvation,
Mary journeys five days from Nazareth to the city of Hebron where, according to
tradition, rested the ashes of the founders of the people of God, Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob.
The terraced-fields of Juda
"She gave Elizabeth greeting"; springtime served the autumn. She, who
is to bear Him Who will say: "I came not to be ministered unto but to
minister" now ministers unto her cousin who bears only His trumpet and His
voice in the wilderness. Nothing so provokes the service of the needy as the
consciousness of one's own unworthiness when visited by the grace of God, The
handmaid of the Lord becomes the handmaid of Elizabeth.
pregnant with seed
called out to her
as she passed, praising the Child
she was yet to bear,
invoking His Blessing
on their expectancy.*
On hearing the woman's greeting, the child whom Elizabeth bore within her
"leaped in her womb." The Old Testament is here meeting the New
Testament; the shadows dissolve with joy before the substance. All the longings
and expectations of thousands of years as to Him Who would be the Saviour are
now fulfilled in this one ecstatic moment when John the Baptist greets Christ,
the Son of the Living God.
Mary is present at three births: at the birth of John the Baptist, at the birth
of her own Divine Son, and at the "birth" of John, the Evangelist, at
the foot of the Cross, as the Master saluted him: "Behold thy
mother!" Mary, the Woman, presided at the three great moments of life: at
a birth on the occasion of the Visitation, at a marriage at the Marriage Feast
of Cana, and at a Death, or surrender of Life, at the Crucifixion of her Divine
"The child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth herself was filled with the
Holy Ghost." A Pentecost came before Pentecost. The physical body of
Christ within Mary now fills John the Baptist with the Spirit of Christ;
thirty-three years later the Mystical Body of Christ, His Church, will be
filled with the Holy Spirit, as Mary, too, will be in the midst of the Apostles
abiding in prayer. John is sanctified by Jesus. So Jesus is not as John - not
man alone, but God, as well.
The second part of the second most beautiful prayer in the world, the Hail
Mary, is now about to be written; the first part was spoken by an angel:
"Hail (Mary) full of grace; the Lord is with Thee; blessed art thou
amongst women." (Luke 1:28)
Now Elizabeth adds the second part in a "loud voice"; "Blessed
art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb (Jesus)" Old age
is here not jealous of youth or privilege, for Elizabeth makes the first public
proclamation that Mary is the Mother of God: "How have I deserved to be
thus visited by the mother of my Lord?" She learned it less from Mary's
lips than from the Spirit of God nestling over her womb. Mary received the
Spirit of God through an angel; Elizabeth was the first to receive it through
Cousin-nurse at birth, Mother-nurse at death. There is nothing Mary has that is
for herself alone - not even her Son. Before He is born, her Son belongs to
others. No sooner does she have the Divine Host within herself than she rises from
the Communion rail of Nazareth to visit the aged and to make her young.
Elizabeth would never live to see her son lose his head to the dancing
stepdaughter of Herod, but Mary would live and die at once in seeing her Son
taste death, that death might be no more.
* Calvin Le Compte, I Sing of a Maiden, Macmillan, 1949.
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Fairest Daughter of the Father: On the Solemnity
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The Blessed Virgin in the History of
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"Hail, Full of Grace": Mary, the Mother of Believers |
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Mary in Feminist Theology: Mother of God or Domesticated Goddess? |
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Excerpts from The Rosary: Chain of Hope | Fr.
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The Past Her Prelude: Marian Imagery in the Old
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Immaculate Mary, Matchless in Grace | John Saward
The Medieval Mary | The Introduction to Mary in the Middle Ages | by Luigi Gambero
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Assumed Into Mother's Arms | Carl E. Olson
The World's First Love: Mary, Mother of God (2nd edition)
by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
Anniversary Edition with New Foreword by Fr. Andrew Apostoli
Also available as a Downloadable Audio File. To hear a sample reading
of The World's First Love, click here
With his characteristic eloquence and brilliance, Fulton J. Sheen presents a moving portrayal of the Blessed Virgin Mary that combines deep
spirituality with history, philosophy and theology. All the major aspects and events of Mary's life are lovingly portrayed in this word portrait that
is a never failing source of information, consolation and inspiration. Sheen also gives profound insights into all the Marian beliefs ranging from the
Immaculate Conception to the Assumption to the miracle of Our Lady of Fatima.
While considering the different phases of Mary's life, Bishop Sheen discusses various problems common to mankind of every age and reveals clearly that
every problem can be resolved. He emphasizes the unique dignity, strength and gifts of women and their ability to help heal the world's problems.
Sheen stresses mankind's need of the Mother of God and her burning love for all her children. The great resurgence of devotion to Mary is God's way of
emphasizing the worth and dignity of every person against the false doctrines that have so confused the modern world.
"A stimulating literary picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary ... an impressive scope of information."
"A remarkable book by Sheen. Many rays of inspiration are to be gleaned from this thought-provoking work."
"The whole treatment is based on a high key that reflects the author's deep reverence and devotion for the Blessed Virgin."
Chicago Sunday Tribune
“With the world situation as challenging as it is today, especially the fear of war and terrorism, this book is truly prophetic. Sheen presents
powerful insights into how Our Lady can help us in dealing with the problems in today’s world. Among his many books, Sheen cherished this book
as his personal favorite!”
Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR
Fulton Sheen (1895-1979) is considered by many to be the most influential
Catholic of the 20th century in America. Millions of people watched his
incredibly popular television series every week, "Life is Worth Living",
and millions more listened to his radio program, "The Catholic Hour".
Wherever he preached in public, standing-room-only crowds packed churches
and halls to hear him. He had the same kind of charisma and holiness that
attracts so many people to Pope John Paul II, who called Sheen "a loyal
son of the Church." Learn more about Archbishop Sheen by reading his
In Clay, or visiting the Archbishop
Fulton J. Sheen Foundation website.
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