More than a visit, Christmas is a visitation!

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Sixth Day of Christmas Novena, 21 December 2022
Song of Song 2:8-14     ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>     Luke 1:39-45
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 20 December 2022.

Did you know that there is a funny story behind that lovely entrance hymn in all our Masses we have been singing since the start of the Advent Season rightly called Halina Jesus, Halina?

According to the story, when Jesus turned seven years old – that’s the seventh Christmas of the world! – the Blessed Mother decided to bake him a beautiful birthday cake. The child Jesus was busy playing with his cousins when his Mother asked him to buy some flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. Of course, the young Messiah obeyed her and went to the store to buy the ingredients for his birthday cake. But, as the Catholic Catechism of the Church attests that Jesus is truly human like us, he suddenly forgot the most important ingredient needed in his cake, the flour. He rushed back home and asked Mama Mary again what was he supposed to buy. This happened thrice that for the third time, Mary was exasperated, wrote it on a piece of paper, telling the child Jesus, “Harina, Jesus, harina!”

For our non-Filipino followers, harina is flour, very close to halina which is come as the song tells us.

Christmas is a story of people, real persons like you and me meeting, encountering God. So far since Sunday we have heard stories of encounters by Joseph, Zechariah and Mary with an angel.  Today, we hear the beautiful encounter between two women so blessed by God, two mothers whose sons would usher in a new beginning of life on earth. 

Mary set out in those days and travelled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Luke 1:39-43

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth is in itself a proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ that presents us with the beautiful personages of two women who are “beloved ones of God” as well as “lovers of God.” 

Both of them “believed” in the promised salvation from God through their mysterious maternity, Mary being a virgin while Elizabeth in her being old and barren. 

They both love God so much that they were gifted with exceptional vocations, Elizabeth bore the Precursor of the Lord Himself born by Mary. 

Most of all, both women waited patiently for the coming of the promised salvation in Christ Jesus.

Visit and visitation may seem to be one and the same in the sense that both have a common Latin root word, the verb to see or vidi, videre from which came the word video.  But, a visit is more casual and informal without intimacy because it is just “a passing by” or merely to see.  It is more concerned with the place or the location and site and not the person to be visited.   We say it clearly in Filipino as in “napadaan lang” when it just so happened you were passing by a place and even without any intentions, you tried seeing someone there. 

On the other hand, visitation is more commonly used in church language like when a bishop or priests come to see the parishioners in remote places.  This is the reason a chapel is more known as a visita in our country because that is where priests visit and check on the well-being of people living in areas very far from the parish usually at the town proper.  Aside from being the venue for the celebration of Masses, the visita serves as classroom for catechism classes and other religious even social gatherings in a particular place. 

Thus, visitation connotes a deeper sense in meaning because there is an expression of care and concern among people, a kind of love shared by the visitator/visitor and the one visited like Mary and Elizabeth. 

Visitation is more of entering into someone’s life or personhood as reported by Luke on Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth where Mary “entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Lk.1:40), implying communion or the sharing of a common experience.  In this case, the two women shared the great experience of being blessed with the presence of God in their wombs! 

Visitation, therefore, is a sharing or oneness in the joys and pains of those dear to us.  The word becomes more meaningful when we try to examine its Filipino equivalent which is “pagdalaw” from the root word “dala” that can be something you bring or a verb to bring.  When we come for a visitation, we dala or bring something like food or any gift.  But most of all we bring our very selves like a gift of presence wherein we share our total selves with our time and talents, joys and sadness, and everything to those being visited.  And that is what Mary did exactly in her visitation of Elizabeth where she brought with her the Lord Jesus Christ in her womb, becoming the first monstrance of the Lord as well as His first tabernacle. 

Today we are invited to become like Mary in the visitation of others to bring Christmas and Jesus Himself to others by allowing our very selves, our body, to be the “bringer” or taga-dala of Christ.  The Lord Himself is the highest good we can bring as pasalubong in every visitation we make.  And if we can only be like Mary in our visitations and dealings with one another sharing Jesus Christ, then we also bring with us God’s tenderness and sweetness to others. 

That is why we have to rush, we have to go in haste like Mary for we have the best good of all – Jesus Christ – to share for everyone!

Come, Lord Jesus Christ!
Come in haste like your Mother Mary
so we may also have a visitation of
persons we have forgotten,
we have taken for granted
all these years!
Come into my heart, Jesus,
and let me see my connections
and links with everyone in you!
We do not need so many presents to give,
just our presence is more than enough
for others to experience your coming
especially on this Christmas.
Amen.

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