Visitation of the BVM

Today, May 31, the Catholic Church observes the Feast of the Visitation to commemorate Blessed Virgin Mary's visit to her cousin, Elizabeth, as recorded in Luke 1:39-56. Elizabeth, who was also pregnant, was carrying the future John the Baptist, although she was supposedly beyond child bearing age and already in her sixth month. As described in the Gospel, when Mary greeted Elizabeth, the child lept in Elizabeth's womb, and she cried out "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." These words were later made part of the famous "Hail Mary" prayer. In response, Mary spoke the words that are found in another well known prayer called the Magnificat, which begins:

My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

This Feast appears to be unknown in the early church, but it surfaced in 1263 as part of the calendar of a Franciscan Chapter in 1263. Due to Franciscan support, it grew in popularity until Pope Urban VI decreed that the Feast be observed by the whole church in 1389.

Vis`it*a"tion (?), n. [L. visitatio: cf. F. visitation.]


The act of visiting, or the state of being visited; access for inspection or examination.

Nothing but peace and gentle visitation. Shak.


Specifically: The act of a superior or superintending officer who, in the discharge of his office, visits a corporation, college, etc., to examine into the manner in which it is conducted, and see that its laws and regulations are duly observed and executed; as, the visitation of a diocese by a bishop.


The object of a visit.

[Obs.] "O flowers, . . . my early visitation and my last."


4. Internat.Law

The act of a naval commander who visits, or enters on board, a vessel belonging to another nation, for the purpose of ascertaining her character and object, but without claiming or exercising a right of searching the vessel. It is, however, usually coupled with the right of search (see under Search), visitation being used for the purpose of search.


Special dispensation; communication of divine favor and goodness, or, more usually, of divine wrath and vengeance; retributive calamity; retribution; judgment.

What will ye do in the day of visitation? Isa. x. 3.

6. Eccl.

A festival in honor of the visit of the Virgin Mary to Elisabeth, mother of John the Baptist, celebrated on the second of July.

The Order of the Visitation of Our Lady R. C. Ch., a religious community of nuns, founded at Annecy, in Savoy, in 1610, and in 1808 established in the United States. In America these nuns are devoted to the education of girls.


© Webster 1913.

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