Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Visitation

When the angel announced to me that I should bear a Son, as soon as I consented, I felt something amazing and inexplicable in me, so that greatly wondering, I at once went up to my cousin Elizabeth to console her in her pregnancy and confer with her on what the angel had announced to me. And when she met me at the well, and we enjoyed each other's embrace and kiss, the infant in her womb, by a wonderful and visible motion, rejoiced. And I likewise was then moved in my heart by unwonted exultation, so that my tongue spoke unpremeditated words of God, and my soul could scarce contain itself for joy. And when Elizabeth wondered at the fervor of spirit that spoke in me, and I not otherwise wondered at the grace of God in her, we remained together many days blessing God. And after this a certain thought began to impress my mind, how and how devoutly I should act after so great a favour bestowed on me. What should I reply, if asked how I conceived, or who was the father of the Son I was to bear; or lest perchance Joseph, instigated by the enemy, should suspect me of evil. While thinking of these things, an angel, not unlike the one whom I had seen before, stood by me, saying: "Our God, who is eternal, is with thee and in thee. Fear not then, He will give thee to speak, He will direct thy steps and abode, he will perfect His work with thee powerfully and wisely." But Joseph, to whom I had been confided, when he perceived me to be pregnant, wondering and thinking himself unworthy to dwell with me, was troubled, not knowing what to do, till the angel told him in the sleep: "Depart not from the virgin confided to thee, for it is most true as thou hast heard from her, for she has conceived of the Spirit of God, and shall bear a Son, the Saviour of the world. Therefore, serve her faithfully, and be thou the guardian and witness of her purity." Then from that day Joseph served me as his lady, and I humbled to his lowest labour. After this I was constantly in prayer, rarely wishing to see or be seen, and I most rarely going forth, unless to the appointed feasts; and I was assiduous in the watches and readiness given by our priests. I had a fixed time for manual labour, and I was discreet in fasting as much as my constitution could bear in God's service. Whatever we had over our daily sustenance we gave to the poor, content with what we had. Joseph so served me, that no scurrilous, murmuring, or angry word was heard from him, for he was most patient in poverty, solicitous in labour when it was necessary, most mild to those who reproached, most obedient in my service, a most prompt defender against those who gainsaid my virginity, a most faithful witness of the wonders of God. For he was so dead to the world and the flesh that he never desired aught but heavenly things. And so confident was he in God's promises, that he would constantly exclaim: "Would that I could live to see God's will fulfilled!" Most rarely did he go to gatherings of men and their councils, because his whole desire was to obey the will of God, and therefore is his glory now so great (Lib VI, c.59).

Picture credit: unknown Flemish artist "Visitation". Text from "Revelations of St Bridget on the life and Passion of Our Lord and the Life of His Blessed Mother".