Tantum Portasti Gaudii

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Do Not Tire of Visiting Us

Full of wonder and gratitude at your continuing presence in our midst, in the name of all priests I too want to cry out: "Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Lk 1:43).
Our Mother for all time, do not tire of "visiting us", consoling us, sustaining us. Come to our aid and deliver us from every danger that threatens us.
Pope Benedict XVI, 12 May 2010

I find it significant, and moving, that Our Holy Father, in his Act of Consecration and Entrustment of Priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, should say to Our Lady, "Do not tire of visiting us." There is no priest who is not in need of being visited by the Mother of God. When Mary visits a priest, she consoles him, sustains him, and delivers him from the dangers that threaten his priesthood. The Holy Father words are echoed in the hymn that, this morning, opened the Office of Matins.

Singing the Mystery of the Visitation

Every year on the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (2 July in the traditional calendar) I rediscover with wonderment the magnificent hymn: Veni, praecelsa Domina. The hymn dates from the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Remarkably, each of its six strophes begins with the word, Veni: Come!

The Spirit and the Bride

The first thing that strikes me about this hymn is how deeply it resonates with the liturgical prayers that the Church addresses to the Holy Spirit. Just as, over and over again, we call upon the Holy Spirit, crying Veni -- I am thinking of the Veni, Creator Spiritus and of the Golden Sequence the Veni, Sancte Spiritus -- so too do we address the Virgin Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Ghost, singing Veni today. Here is the text of the hymn as I translated it:

COME, Lady upon the heights;
Mary, visit us,
you who already brought such joy
to the house of your kinswoman.

COME, Help of the World
remove the stains of sin
and, in visiting your people,
take away the threat of punishment.

COME, Star and Light of the Sea,
pour forth a ray of peace;
set straight what is crooked,
give innocence of life.

COME visit us, we pray you,
strengthen our vigor
with the energy of a holy impulse,
lest our soul waver.

COME, Royal Sceptre,
bring back the wave of those in error
to the unity of the faith
by which the citizens of heaven were saved.

COME, that together with you
we may ceaselessly praise the Son,
with the Father and the Holy Spirit;
may they give us their help. Amen.

The Visitation of the Virgin

The work of the Mother of God is closely associated with that of the Holy Spirit. Compare the graces asked of Mary in this lovely hymn with those asked of the Holy Spirit in the Veni Creator and, again, in the Veni Sancte Spiritus. The visitation of the Virgin brings joy, restores purity, sheds light, sets things right, restores innocence, strengthens the weak, quickens the flagging, reconciles the separated, and raises our spirits in praise to the Trinity.

An Exhalation of the Holy Spirit

Where the Virgin Mary goes, the Holy Spirit follows. Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort says that as soon as the Holy Spirit finds Mary in a soul, He hastens there. We see that clearly in today’s Gospel. No sooner did Mary greet Elizabeth than she was filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:41). Even the infant John in his mother’s womb is quickened by the Holy Spirit and mysteriously sanctified at the sound of the Virgin Mary’s voice (cf. Lk 1:44). The salutation of Holy Mary, full of grace, is an exhalation of the Holy Spirit.

She Salutes Us With Grace

If you would experience the grace of Mary’s salutation, then greet her often. There is in a lovely episode in the life of Saint Bernard that demonstrates this. It took place while he was visiting the Abbey of Afflighem in Belgium. Saint Bernard raised his eyes to an image of the Blessed Virgin, saying, Ave, Maria, and the Mother of God, looking upon him with inexpressible sweetness, said, Ave, Bernarde. Mary's salutation, says Saint Bonaventure, will always take the form of some grace corresponding to the needs of the person who greets her: "She gladly salutes us with grace, if we joyfully salute her with the Hail Mary."

Always the Rosary

This is why the repeated salutations of the Rosary are so powerful. The Ave, Maria tirelessly repeated opens the heart to the gentle irrigation of the Holy Spirit, to the living water promised by Jesus to those who believe in Him (cf. Jn 7:38). The Rosary is one of the surest ways of obtaining the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. One who invokes the Mother of God invokes the Holy Spirit, for she never visits us apart from the Holy Spirit who overshadowed her at the Annunciation, spoke through her at the Visitation, inspired her at Cana, descended upon her from the mouth of the Crucified on Calvary, and filled her with fire at Pentecost.

You may find it helpful to meditate those mysteries of the Rosary in which the relationship between the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit is more clearly revealed: 1) the Annunciation, 2) the Visitation, 3) the Wedding Feast at Cana, 4) the Death of Jesus on the Cross, 5) the Retreat in the Cenacle and the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Veni, Maria!

Today, ask the Mother of God to visit you and to visit those most in need of her motherly presence. Take your inspiration from the prayer of the Church, and repeat over and over again: Veni, veni, veni, Maria! She will come. She will visit you. And with her visitation will come the grace of the Holy Spirit.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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