Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth: The Franciscan Connection

Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth: The Franciscan Connection

These final days of Advent are marked in the liturgy by the great “O Antiphons,” with their sense of joyful expectation. Today (December 19), the church prays: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.”

Francis held the Nativity of the Lord in great reverence

Francis’s early biographers tell us that “he held the Nativity of the Lord in greater reverence than any other of the Lord’s solemnities, saying: “After the Lord was born for us, it was certain that we would be saved,’” (Mirror of Perfection, 114). For Francis, the decision of God’s eternal Word to empty self, humbly entering creation as one of us, sharing our poverty and fragility, demonstrated—even without Jesus’s suffering and death—that God wants to give everything for us.

Francis expresses the hope of the Advent season

That spirit of joyful expectation radiates through today’s Gospel, captured in this fresco of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth; these two expectant mothers sense the movement of new life within them. What this life will be they do not yet know, but they await its appearance with longing and confidence. Let us share their joy by joining in a psalm Francis composed for his “Office of the Passion.” In it he expresses the hope of this Advent season—that God’s saving love might yet become manifest in our world:

I will confess you, Lord, most Holy Father, King of heaven and earth,

for you have consoled me.

You are God, my Savior; I will act confidently and not be afraid.

You, Lord, are my strength and my glory,

you have become my salvation.

Your right hand, O Lord, is magnificent strength,

your right hand, O Lord, has struck the enemy,

and in your great glory you cast down my adversaries.

Let the poor see and rejoice;

seek the Lord and your soul will live.

Let heaven and earth praise God,

the sea and every living thing in them,

because God will save Zion,

and the cities of Judah will be rebuilt.

And the poor will dwell there and will inherit Zion.

The descendants of God’s servants will possess it

and those who love God’s name shall dwell there.

(Office of the Passion, Psalm 14)

For those who enjoy music, you might enjoy listening to the Gregorian chant version of today’s antiphon: “O Radix Jesse.”

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Main image: This fresco of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth is in the lower basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, Italy. It was executed between 13151320 and is attributed to Giotto or his collaborators.

Authors

Dominic Monti

Dominic Monti

Dominic V. Monti, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (USA) and currently professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University. A native of nearby Bradford, PA, he was educated at St. Bonaventure (BA); after joining the Order, he attended the Catholic University of America (STB), Union Theological Seminary, NY (STM), and the Divinity School of the University of Chicago (PhD). He devoted the greater part of his ministry to teaching the History of Christianity, in particular the history of the Franciscan movement. He has contributed two volumes to the Works of St. Bonaventure series and is author of Francis & His Brothers, a popular history of the Friars Minor. He is spiritual assistant to a federation of Poor Clares and the Franciscan Secular Institute, the Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ.