Our Lady (detail from the Ghent Altarpiece / Adoration of the Mystic Lamb),
Painted by Jan Van Eyck (1390-1441),
Completed by 1432,
Oil on panel
© St. Bavo Cathedral, Ghent

Our Lady (detail from the Ghent Altarpiece / Adoration of the Mystic Lamb),
Painted by Jan Van Eyck (1390-1441),
Completed by 1432,
Oil on panel
© St. Bavo Cathedral, Ghent

Gospel of 31 May 2023

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, 'Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.'

And Mary said:

'My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lordand my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.

Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.

Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart.

He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors – of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.'

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

Reflection on the painting

As we are on the last day of May, the month during which we celebrate Our Lady, and this also being the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I want to share a story which Bishop Fulton Sheen told about Our Lady.

When Bishop Fulton Sheen was visiting a school in his Archdiocese of New York, one of the young children in class asked him what Our Lady could do for us. He pondered for a minute and then said that he had a dream where God complained to Saint Peter why so many people ended up in heaven. He told Peter that too many people were entering and that many were entering without the necessary paperwork or passports to Heaven. As Peter holds the keys to Heaven, it was indeed his responsibility. Peter replied to God the Father: 'It isn't me who is letting all these people in. You should talk to the mother of your Son, Jesus, about this issue'. God answered: 'Why?' St Peter replied: 'I only look after the gate of Heaven and I vet everyone who wants to come in. I turn lots of people away. However, when I refuse entry, they go to the window of heaven and Our Lady lets them in!'

It is a charming story, highlighting how Mary intercedes for us. She is keen to help us! Today’s gospel shows that Mary’s faith not only found expression in love, it also found expression in prayer. Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, has been a wonderful gift to us, prayed by believers down through the centuries. The meeting of Mary and Elizabeth which we celebrate today was equally a meeting between the Son of the Most High (Jesus) and the prophet of the Most High (John the Baptist). Mary and Elizabeth were well aware there was this deeper dimension to their meeting. In fact, any meeting between two people, especially between two Christians, always has a deeper dimension beyond what is clearly visible...

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Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
10 months ago

Greetings. I just read a review this morning of a new book, “The Other Renaissance,” (image attached) about the revolution in art and science north of the Alps; the review mentions the innovations of Van Eyck. I am still aglow from Pentecost Sunday and the unforgettable El Greco!

The Other Renaissance.jpg
Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark Crain

The Northern Renaissance has been overlooked and was a very significant development in the history of Western art. Particularly limewood carving. Waldemar Wanachuk?? did a programme on it. (Can’t spell his name!)

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
10 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Yes Waldy was right – I recall those carvings – they are stupendous.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark Crain

Thanks for that recommendation Mark. My favourite ‘renaissance’ and leaves the Italian one standing imo!

Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
10 months ago

Such a beautiful representation of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven. Her face reminds me of the face of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I love the Magnificat. There is a beautiful song by John Michael Talbot called “Holy is His Name” which is based on the Magnificat.

Last edited 10 months ago by Andy Bocanegra
Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
10 months ago

Our Lady was a devout Jewish woman and her first response is to utter scriptural praise to almighty God. It’s wonderful.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
10 months ago

Glorious art work in total and in detail. Luke’s account is one of my favourites in the Gospel- two women meeting with shared hopes expectations and incredible faith. I love them so much! I also love your message Patrick, about the meeting of two christians, what thought to ponder on today! We probably take our encounters with other believers a little bit for granted- but it never is and we never should. Happy Feast Day eveyone- we Catholics are always celebrating something ,aren’t we?

Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
10 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

The Feast days are part of what makes the Catholic Church so beautiful. Happy Feast Day to you also.

Margaret Laycock
Member
Margaret Laycock
10 months ago

That’s a lovely story. I thank God for giving Mary to us for our mother. She helps us to do the things we can do for ourselves and steps in when things are beyond us. She’s a perfect example of a perfect mother.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
10 months ago

A wonderful Bible passage and a beautiful story from Bishop Fulton. He must have been quite a guy and I believe he is up for canonisation.
We had a trip planned (and paid for) to go to Ghent to see the Van Eyck show there but it was all swept away by the wretched pandemic. Looking at this picture today I must sort this out again because this is the most beautiful representation of the Virgin I have ever seen!

marleen de vlieghere
Member
marleen de vlieghere
10 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Delayed is not lost. I hope it for you, Chazbo.
Welcome to Flanders!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
10 months ago

I’m coming! A very powerful man was born in Ghent who I am interested in. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Charles I of Spain. I wonder if you can visit his birthplace?

marleen de vlieghere
Member
marleen de vlieghere
10 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Very well, Chazbo.
Regrettable: Birthplace ‘Prinsenhof’ has disappeared.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
10 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

It is indeed a stunning image!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
10 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

The last day of the month of Our Lady and Patrick has given us THE most stunning image. Van Eyck is number one with me.
Chazbo, you just have to go and see it – and include the virtual tour . It is unforgettable in so many ways, not least the history of the altarpiece and what it’s been through. As Marleen says, you will receive a warm welcome in Flanders.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
10 months ago

I thought everyone had forgotten about Van Eyck in the frenzy of Vermeer mania. I watched the Vermeer show on TV last night – quite dry I thought….

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
10 months ago

I’ve made her my desktop!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
10 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Me too!

Jo Siedlecka
Member
Jo Siedlecka
10 months ago

Beautiful picture and I love the reassuring story by Bishop Fulton Sheen!

Mike Baird
Member
Mike Baird
10 months ago

Mary’s first response on learning that Elizabeth was with child was to go to her and stay with her. That’s what love does.

Mary is still grappling with the news she is pregnant herself. She needed a friend’s support. Elizabeth gives her that the moment they greet. This strengthens Mary to step up to her new role as Mother of God. Her Magnificat shows she is ready.

I have three “Elizabeths” in my life, life-giving friends who speak candidly and prophetically into my life. I call them my 3:00 am friends. I could call them at 3:00 am for help and know I would receive it. I am blessed.

Who can I be an “Elizabeth” to today?

Last edited 10 months ago by Mike Baird
Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
10 months ago
Reply to  Mike Baird

Me, Mike, me! 🙂 lol

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
10 months ago
Reply to  Mike Baird

Yes, and she undertakes a long journey alone to get there! You are an Elizabeth to us all Mike. God bless you today.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
10 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Agree.

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