May is the month traditionally dedicated to Our Lady. It is a time in which we seek to be practice more fervently our devotion to our heavenly mother. There are many traditions in different parts of the world to honor Our Lady in a particular way during this month. I know of a town in Italy where every morning at 6am the faithful go on pilgrimage to a church on top of a mountain and celebrate Mass. This act of devotion recalls the journey of Mary to visit her cousin Elizabeth, ‘‘Mary set out and traveled to the hill country…’’.
Reflecting on this passage of the gospel of Luke, the Visitation of Mary, we can examine a marvelous virtue of Mary, Temple of the Holy Spirit, a virtue that we should all seek to cultivate during our earthly journey towards our other, hospitality.
Here hospitality goes beyond a simple external service rendered towards another. Rather, it refers to an interior embrace that requires an openness of heart towards the other. It is to set out on a journey towards a You. Have we ever thought of hospitality not only as the act of welcoming another when they knock at our door but as an active going towards the other? This is the surprising act of welcoming that belongs to Christians. If we wait for the other to come we will never meet those most in need of hospitality. We are able to welcome and embrace Jesus only because Jesus first visited us and humbled himself to host us in his heart. St. Elizabeth tells us, ‘‘at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.’’ And all this in a gratuitous encounter, ‘‘And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’’
Our relationship with our other is the privileged place of God where we can grow in our knowledge of Him. These words give us a glimpse into the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth and show us that hospitality does not only create space for our other in ones own heart but opens to ourselves and to our other the possibility to encounter that total-Other that anxiously awaits us there. ‘‘We experience God only in the beating of our heart,’ writes a theologian, ‘aroused by a friend, it beats towards the total-Other. Even, the child ‘‘leaped for joy’’ in Elizabeth’s womb, aroused by the presence carried in Mary.
Maybe we often feel more touched by the presence of a person than we do before the blessed sacrament in the Church, is this possible? Yes, because it is the Lord’s pleasure that we might each be living temples for one another. “Porteurs de Dieu”, according to the cure of Ars, God-bearers on a journey. Conscious of this reality for which we are all called to be responsible for, may our going towards our other, our hospitality, be a true act of veneration that does not separate us from the others. A true act of veneration should bring us even closer to the reality being venerated, a personal encounter that is able to move us towards.
An Austrian poet, Rilke, pens these verses on the visitation of Mary:
‘‘And she urged her to rest her hand
on the womb of the other, already larger.
And the women staggered towards each other,
And hair and clothes touched.
Each, filled with her temple,
took refuge in her friend.
Ah, the Savior in her – still a flower;
but the Baptist in her cousin’s womb
breaks out his joy in leaps.’’
Maybe we often feel more touched by the presence of a person than we do before the blessed sacrament in the Church, is this possible? Yes, because it is the Lord’s pleasure that we might each be living temples for one another. In this spirit we turn our gaze towards Mary, Temple of the Holy Spirit par excellence. She is our ideal of hospitality. She that knew how to welcome the Word of God in herself because she already dwelt in the heart of God, and in this way, reached ‘‘in haste’’ that sanctity of life that outflows and begets new life. Let us pray that we too may reach in haste, each day, and be that place, that temple, for our other.
Let’s reflect and live out these words by St. John Vianney, “O my God, come to me, that I may dwell in you and you dwell in me.”