Immediately after the narration of the Annunciation, the Evangelist Luke guides us in the footsteps of the Virgin of Nazareth towards “a city of Judah” (Lk. 1:39). According to scholars this city would be the modern Ain Karim, situated in the mountains, not far from Jerusalem. Mary arrived there “in haste,” to visit Elizabeth her kinswoman. The reason for her visit is also to be found in the fact that at the Annunciation Gabriel had made special mention of Elizabeth, who in her old age had conceived a son by her husband Zechariah, through the power of God: “your kins woman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a Son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk. 1:36-37). The divine messenger had spoken of what had been accomplished in Elizabeth in order to answer Mary’s question. “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” (Lk. 1:34) It is to come to pass precisely through the “power of the Most High,” just as it happened in the case of Elizabeth, and even more so.
Moved by charity, therefore, Mary goes to the house of her kinswoman. When Mary enters, Elizabeth replies to her greeting and feels the child leap in her womb, and being “filled with the Holy Spirit” she greets Mary with a loud cry: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (cf. Lk. 1:40-42) Elizabeth’s exclamation or acclamation was subsequently to become part of the Hail Mary, as a continuation of the angel’s greeting, thus becoming one of the Church’s most frequently used prayers. But still more significant are the words of Elizabeth in the question which follows: “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk. 1:43) Elizabeth bears witness to Mary: she recognizes and proclaims that before her stands the Mother of the Lord, the Mother of the Messiah. The son whom Elizabeth is carrying in her womb also shares in this witness: “The babe in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk. 1:44). This child is the future John the Baptist, who at the Jordan will point out Jesus as the Messiah.
While every word of Elizabeth’s greeting is filled with meaning, her final words would seem to have fundamental importance: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk. 1:45). These words can be linked with the little “full of grace” of the angel’s greeting. Both of these texts reveal an essential Mariological content, namely the truth about Mary, who has become really present in the mystery of Christ precisely because she “has believed.” The fullness of grace announced by the angel means the gift of God himself. Mary’s faith, proclaimed by Elizabeth at the Visitation, indicates how the Virgin of Nazareth responded to this gift.