The visitation of Mary to cousin Elizabeth, as related in Luke’s gospel, celebrates the pregnancy of two women – one young and bearing Jesus, the other old, supposedly barren, but now ready to give birth to John the Baptist. On Mary’s arrival Elizabeth feels John moving in her womb as if he, too, recognizes Jesus’ presence within Mary.
Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith and then Mary utters what we now know as the Magnificat, that splendid canticle of praise, set by so many of the world’s greatest composers including Bach, Monteverdi and Herbert Howells.
If you can’t remember it, here is a translation of those wonderful words spoken by the Virgin:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
to remember his promise of mercy,
The promise made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
The feast of the Visitation was celebrated yesterday evening on its traditional pre -1969 date of July 2nd at the exquisite little church of Santa Maria Addolorata of Gombereto.
Gombereto is the nearest village to Longoio (if one excludes our “double-star” Mobbiano) and is a quite delightful place with a central square, scene of festivities among which are two major ones: the Festa della Madonna Addolorata and the Festa Mediovale, both of which take place at the end of August and the beginning of September.
Gombereto has three little churches (or chiesine) in it religious purlieus: San Giuseppe, standing outside the southern entrance to the village, Santa Maria dei Dolori, at the northern end, and Refubbri, the chiesina della Visitazione, which should have been the most appropriate place to celebrate the feast but which now sadly stands (just) in total neglect, roofless and prey to ivy and the weather.
Santa Maria dei Dolori has been beautifully restored by volunteer help organized by former cultural assessor of the Comune, Claudio Gemignani. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to attend the mass in this “chicchina” (little pearl) of a place, as Don Franco, the celebrant observed since (he went on to say) so many churches he celebrates in have been reduced to mere shadows of their former glory simply by lack of Love.
Love is not just to be displayed towards oneself and others – it is to be revealed in the total environment in which one lives: all the manifestations of nature in its supreme beauty, the relationship one has with animals, the care one takes towards buildings….. vandalism is lack of Love, indifference is negation of Love and hate is perversion of Love.
Let us hope that there may be sufficient Love in future generations for the little churches of Gombereto, and indeed all those of the surrounding areas, to be preserved and rescued from both material and spiritual decay.