Saint John Paul II
“Blessed is she who believed” (Luke 1:45). Mary also anticipated, in the mystery of the incarnation, the Church’s Eucharistic faith. When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a “tabernacle” – the first “tabernacle” in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 55)
The Hidden Face of Christ
The Face of Christ was hidden in Our Lady Saint Mary’s virginal womb: hidden, yet wonderfully radiant. Jesus was hidden in Mary as He is hidden in the tabernacle. (The traditional use of the tabernacle veil suggests this very connection.) The Virgin of the Visitation bears within herself the Human Face of God. She holds it beneath her heart. The joy that shines on the Virgin’s face as she intones her Magnificat is the very joy that shines eternally on the Face of the Word in the presence of the Father. The Virgin Mother’s womb enclosed, for all generations to come, “the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
The Virgin of the Sign
This is the significance of the ancient icon of the Mother of God called «of the Sign». The icon shows her as the Virgin of the Magnificat and the Woman of the Eucharist. The Divine Child in the tabernacle of her womb is displayed to the eyes of faith. The Face of the Infant–God shone from Our Lady’s womb as now it shines from the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Elizabeth was inwardly illumined by the radiance of the Face of the hidden Christ, and the infant John, hidden in her womb, leapt for joy. The same light that shone from the Face of the Infant Christ in the tabernacle of Our Lady’s womb shines for us from his Eucharistic Face.
The Eucharistic Face of Christ
The Eucharistic Face of Christ concealed in the tabernacle, or displayed to our eyes at Holy Mass, or exposed to our gaze in the monstrance, streams with light for every darkness, healing for every brokenness, joy for every sorrow, and pardon for every sin. So often as Christ is “brought forth” in the Most Holy Eucharist, as He was from Mary’s virginal womb on the first Christmas, the Church can sing what she sings every year at First Vespers of Christmas: Rex pacificus magnificatus est, cuius vultum desiderat universa terra — «The King of peace is magnified, the One whose face the whole earth desireth to see».
Visited by Joy
Today’s festival of the Visitation invites to imitate the faith of Elizabeth who, without seeing it, was illumined by the Human Face of God tabernacled in Mary’s womb. For us the same Human Face of God is hidden beneath the sacramental veils, the appearances of bread and wine. The Most Holy Eucharist is the Visitation of the Hidden Christ. He come always with His Virgin Mother that from her we might learn, as Saint John Paul II said, «to sing the Magnificat in a Eucharistic key» (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 58) Thus does the Hidden Face of Christ become for us, as it was for Our Lady Saint Mary and for Saint Elizabeth, the inexhaustible wellspring of joy in God.