My Soul Proclaims the Greatness of the Lord: A Sermon for Advent 4, Year C

The familiar story we have heard today has been painted thousands of times throughout history. Two women, one young, one elderly, both of them pregnant, greeting each other. Often, the elderly one is deferring to the younger one, kneeling before her. Other times, the two are embracing. It’s such a familiar image, such a familiar story, that we tend to pay it little attention. Certainly, it does not factor largely in our devotion. Though it’s the occasion for two of the most common hymns or devotions in Catholicism—the Ave Maria and the Magnificat—we probably rarely reflect on the narrative context from which these hymns come. And really, it’s hardly shocking that we don’t pay closer attention to the Visitation, for it’s a brief episode, not more than a couple of verses (not including the magnificat itself).

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Jacopo da Pontormo, 1528

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Ghirlandaio, 1491

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