Rejoice, Daughter Zion! — The Visitation

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Icon of Israel and the Icon of the Church. Mary is the bridge between the Old and New Testaments and we can discover her in both. Whenever we encounter positive descriptions of “Jerusalem,” “Zion,” “Daughter Zion,” or “Israel” in the Old Testament, or praises of “Mother Church” today, these words often apply quite fittingly to Mary as well. Today’s first reading is a great example of this. But before returning there, let me share with you this interesting detail. Even though we traditionally pray, “Hail Mary, Full of Grace,” the Archangel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary at the Annunciation [“Chaire” in Greek] literally means , “Rejoice… Full of Grace!” Now hear again the words from the Book of Zephaniah:

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!

In today’s Gospel, Mary fulfills these words, glad and exulting with all her heart:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
My spirit rejoices in God my savior

Zephaniah says:

The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.

And Mary agrees:

He has mercy on those who fear Him
In every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

Earlier, at the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary, He said to her:

“Hail, [Rejoice,] full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

As Zephaniah foretells,

On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;

And the angel says to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus,” a name which means, “God saves.”

Zephaniah foretold of the Lord’s pleasure in Mary,

He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

The Lord rejoices over Mary, and Mary in her Lord. Let us always remember, that the Lord rejoices over us as well. Despite our sins and failings, we are the Church, the new Israel, and whatever one can say of Mary usually applies quite fittingly to us as well. Mary is the icon of the Church, the sign of who we are, and who we are called to be with Christ.

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