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March 29, 2024

Three Homilies on the Visitation of the Mother of God to Elizabeth (Archpriest Rodion Putyatin)

By Archpriest Rodion Putyatin
"And Zechariah entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby in her womb leaped; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 1:40–41).

The Most Holy Virgin Mary, soon after the angels told Her about the birth of the Son of God, went to the city of Judah to visit her relative Elizabeth, the wife of the righteous Zechariah. And this is what happened in Zechariah's house with Her arrival. When She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth, immediately the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped joyfully, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. You see, listeners, how from the presence and greeting of She who is full of grace the one welcoming was filled with God’s grace. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby in her womb leaped; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Such is the grace of the Holy Spirit: from one it can be communicated and transferred to another. From a grace-filled, pure, holy person, the place where they are is filled with purity, holiness, and grace. The grace of God, the invisible power of God, is visibly manifested and reflected in the appearance of a grace-filled person: it shines in their eyes, is heard in their words, is visible in their face; they who are grace-filled breathe, one might say, grace, and from the garments of the grace-filled comes grace. And therefore, blessed is the house in which there is at least one good, pure, and grace-filled person. Just as from fragrant incense, located in one place, a fragrance spreads throughout the whole house; just as from one burning candle the whole room is illuminated with light, so from one virtuous, grace-filled person, grace spreads its fragrance throughout the whole house and its light shines on everyone. The grace of God is so easily communicated!

Unfortunately, vices are also easily communicated. And vices conveniently and easily pass from one person to another; from the perverse the most innocent can become infected with vices. No matter how hidden a vice may be, it is certainly revealed and manifested in the appearance of the perverse one. He is wicked and breathes a wicked stench, and from his clothes comes a wicked stench. The very air where the wicked live is filled with a perverse stench. And therefore it is a great misfortune for a house when there is at least one person in it who indulges in vices. The perverse, like fire, must be fled; like an infection, feared. Being with a perverse person for a long time and communicating often is dangerous. The most contagious and infectious disease is vices. May the Lord God save us from friendship and cohabitation with perverse people!

Christian listener! Have an icon of the Mother of God in your house where you live, be sure to have it. With Her presence, the grace of God will dwell in your home. Where there is an icon of grace, there is grace. Amen.

+ + +

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46–47).

Wonderful song, delightful song, divine song! The heart rejoices when it is sung. Apparently she sang with great joy. Yes, indeed, with great joy. After all, this is the song of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was She who rejoiced so much about God the Savior when He looked upon Her humility. It was She who magnified the Lord so soon after she received the gospel from the Angel. "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

But, listeners, this song of the Mother of God was sung by Her here, down on earth. How wonderful, how delightful Her songs must be there, in Heaven, where She sees Her Lord face to face. Oh, I would listen to those high, heavenly songs of Hers! I would listen to how She, together with the Angels, sings to the Lord and, together with the saints, rejoices in God the Savior! I would listen to how we now, imitating Her as the chorus leader, thousands of thousands of voices, resounding in countless places and spreading, like sea waves, across an endless space, finally merge into one joyful voice and make up one song of praise! Oh, what a wonderful, delightful choir we would hear! And the time will come to hear it. Oh, if only this longed-for time would come soon! Some of us, perhaps, ourselves will join the choir of those singing there. Oh, if only the Lord would grant us all this through the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Yes, this longed-for time will come. And why shouldn’t we want to speed it up?

Don't want Heaven? But weren't we created for Heaven? Don't we live here for Heaven? Shouldn’t we be preparing for Heaven every minute? Shouldn't we work day and night for Heaven? Shouldn’t we direct our minds and hearts to Heaven? Be wise on high, writes the Apostle Paul. Don't want Heaven? Is this natural? How can one not strive for freedom from prison? How can one not ask for the light from the darkness? How can you not cry for your native land in a foreign land? Alas for me, for my coming is delayed, the king-prophet cried, and, of course, more than once.

Don't want Heaven? But is this really possible? How do you think about what is there in Heaven? Ah, there is our sweetest Jesus, the most beautiful of all the sons of men, there is our Lady, the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God, more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim! And the Seraphim and Cherubim themselves, and the Archangels and Angels, and the prophets, apostles, venerables, saints, martyrs, they are all there, in the Kingdom of the Heavenly Father!

Don't want Heaven? What better could we wish for ourselves? Isn't the desire for Heaven the most sacred desire? The more we desire Heaven, the less we will become attached to earth (and we would not need to become attached to it at all). The more often we sigh for the dwelling of the saints, the less often we will go to the meeting of sinners (and we would never need to go there). The more we cry for the sweet things of heaven, the more disgusting we will be with earthly pleasures.

Oh, Queen of Heaven! Turn all our desire to the heavenly, elevate our entire soul to the heavenly, destroy in us all carnal passion, kill all our attachment to the earth? What do we need in this land? She is a stranger to us. Paradise is our native fatherland. Oh, it’s so good there, so bright, so joyful, there’s such wonderful beauty, there’s such delightful singing!

Let us, pious listeners, let us desire Heaven more, let us sigh more strongly for the beauties of the highest Jerusalem, for the songs of the heavenly Zion.

Thus, the desire for Heaven is the most sacred desire. Pray with all your heart to be there, just wait patiently for the fulfillment of this desire. Rejoice if you soon have to leave this world, just be ready to joyfully remain here, if the holy will of God pleases. Desire to quickly strive towards Christ, only desire with Christ and about Christ; desire more often the songs of heaven, but do not stop singing to the Lord on earth.

And we still turn to You, Most Holy Virgin Mary, we will never stop turning to You! Open for us the entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven, so that we, saved by You, can sing Your wonderful song there too: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Amen.

+ + +

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46–47).

Beginning this sermon to you with the song of the Mother of God, I do not think, listeners, that you will get bored with it: this is the kind of song that is never boring to repeat; it is filled with such joy that even in the most bitter moments you will rejoice in spirit, if only you have the strength to sing it. So now we rejoice when we sing this song. What joy was the heart of the Most Holy Virgin Mary filled with when She sang this song for the first time? It is not for our unclean heart to feel this joy: only the Angels of God can understand its loftiness.

But here, listeners, is another song that has now come to my mind, a song that the Holy Church sings on behalf of the Most Holy Virgin Mary. Ah, just remembering this song fills my heart with sorrow! Listen to it: "Woe is me, O my Child! Wow is me, Light of mine eyes and beloved Fruit of my womb!..." You don’t need to tell to whom this lamentable song was addressed: this is how the Mother of God cried when she stood before the lifeless body of Her Son and God. Oh, who will not be struck with sorrow by this mournful song? What sorrow the heart of the Mother of God was filled with when She grieved so much! It is not for our hearts to know this sorrow; its depth could only be felt by those who stood at the cross of the deceased Lord Jesus.

So, pious listeners, in this life the Mother of God suffered a lot. Can we live here in such a way that we can all rejoice and have fun? No, we also need to grieve and suffer; without sorrow and suffering no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. After the joy of the Annunciation, the Mother of God saw few joys in her life. And you, Christian, after joy, expect some kind of sorrow, be sure to wait, for it will certainly come, for it is saving for you. This is the law of God’s Providence for those seeking salvation: after joy there will certainly be sorrow. This is God’s order in visible nature: after the bucket comes bad weather.

What does this mean? Why does God want us to experience so much grief in life? God has arranged everything wisely, and everything is for our salvation, everything is for our blessing.

God does not allow us to have much joy on earth, so that we do not become too attached to earthly things. God often sends us sorrows in life, so that it is not too difficult for us to part with life. God does not allow us to have much fun on earth, so that we can live more joyfully in Heaven. Yes, it's fun in Heaven. But we will have even more fun there when here on earth we suffer more, cry, grieve for the sake of the Lord. Our present temporary sorrow prepares for us eternal joy in Heaven; our present sorrow is the seed of our future joy. And therefore, the more sorrows and griefs someone endures for the sake of salvation, the more consolation and joys he will have there. It’s hard to grieve in life, it’s tiresome to work, but there it will be fun to rejoice, there it will be sweet to rest.

Queen of Heaven! We are ready to beg You to send us more troubles and sorrows, when they are so necessary and saving for us. But, Mother of God, You know, You have experienced how difficult it is to be in poverty and sorrow, and therefore we pray to You, Joy of all who mourn, save us from troubles and sorrows. And if we really need troubles and sorrows, if they are inevitable, then help us to patiently endure these troubles and sorrows. Amen.

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