The Gospel reading from the Mass for December 21 is Luke 1:39-45.

Mary, having accepted God’s will for her to become the “Mother of God” and informed of her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy, travels for four days (some 80 miles) to the hill country of Judea. Though the Gospels are silent, St. Joseph may have guided Mary on this arduous journey. Mary, born without sin, was a young teenager who was betrothed (married) to Joseph; it would have been disobedient, imprudent and unloving to disappear for at least three months (Luke 1:56) without speaking with her husband. Joseph, the great saint who later proves to be a fearless protector and provider for Mary and Jesus; it would have been unmanly to have failed to accompany his teenage bride on the dangerous journey.

There are mysterious echoes of the Old Testament in Mary’s journey.  In the Old Testament, King David travels to the hill country of Judea to reclaim the lost Ark of the Covenant which is overshadowed by God’s presence (Exod 40:35); Mary travels to the same area and is the Ark of the New Covenant in which the Son of God resides. King David finds the Ark and is overwhelmed by feelings of unworthiness; Elizabeth has the same response when she greets Mary. King David leaps with joy in the presence of the Ark; John the Baptist leaps with joy in Elizabeth’s womb. King David returns the Ark of the (Old) Covenant to Jerusalem; Christ will return to Jerusalem and, in His Passion and Resurrection, establish the New Covenant.

Elizabeth is miraculously moved by the Holy Spirit upon Mary’s arrival. Without being told Mary is pregnant (only a few weeks into her pregnancy, Mary does not “show”), Elizabeth recognizes (“Blessed are you…blessed is the fruit of your womb”) Mary’s miraculous conception. Elizabeth is divinely inspired to exalt Mary as “the mother of my Lord.” Mysteriously, Mary’s voice is heard by John the Baptist, still three months away from birth in Elizabeth’s womb, which causes John to leap with joy.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ even in the earliest stages of gestation in Mary’s womb has a powerful impact on Elizabeth and the unborn John. Divine King, Christ’s presence causes Elizabeth to be the first to recognize Mary’s Queenship (in ancient Jewish culture, the mother of the king was queen). Divine Prophet, Christ inspires mysterious connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) While the beautiful devotion of the Rosary has been prayed in some form for 1000 years, the key parts of the “Hail Mary” (“Hail Mary, full of Grace..”, “Blessed are you among women…”) are from words in Luke’s Gospel. Be awed that words uttered by angels and saints in awe of Christ 2000 years ago are repeated by millions today.

2) The “Hail Mary” and the Rosary provide men the beautiful ability to draw closer to Christ and His Blessed Mother.  During Advent, reflect upon Praying in Communion with the Holy Mother of God (CCC 2673-2682, 2708, 1674) and ask Christ to help you grow in your devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

3) During Advent, reflect upon The Visitation (CCC 148, 495, 717), marveling at Elizabeth’s stunning revelations about Christ and Mary; reflect also upon both Joseph’s and Zechariah’s (Elizabeth’s husband) experience of awe at being in the presence of Christ, Mary and St. John the Baptist.