The Visitation - by Domenico Ghirlandaio - from Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence . . . . . . .
The Visitation is one of the most moving gospel stories in artistic iconography - the meeting between two women
who carry within themselves two miracles: the already aged Elizabeth who through divine will conceived a son who would
be the precursor of Christ; and the young Mary, who "knew not man" and conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
Mary set out, proceeding in haste into the hill country to a town of Judah, where she entered Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby stirred in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice: "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. But who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby stirred in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord's words to her would be fulfilled."
Then Mary said:
"My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit finds joy in God my Savior,
For He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness;
all ages to come shall call me blessed
God Who is mighty has done great things for me,
holy is His name;
His mercy is from age to age
on those who fear Him.
"He has shown might with His Arm;
He has confused the proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has deposed the mighty from their thrones
and raised the lowly to high places.
The hungry He has given every good thing,
while the rich He has sent empty away.
He has upheld Israel His servant,
ever mindful of His mercy;
Even as He promised our fathers,
promised Abraham and his descendants forever."
Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home.
Assuming that the Annunciation and the Incarnation took place about the vernal equinox, Mary left Nazareth (upper left) at the end of March and went over the mountains to Hebron (lower left), south of Jerusalem, to wait upon her cousin Elizabeth, because her presence and much more the presence of the Divine Child in her womb, according to the Will of God, was to be the source of very great graces to the Blessed John, Christ's Forerunner. The event is related in Luke 1:39-56. Feeling the presence of his Divine Savior, John, upon the arrival of Mary, leaped in the womb of his mother; he was then cleansed from original sin and filled with the grace of God. Our Lady now for the first time exercised the office which belonged to the Mother of God made man, that He might by her mediation (Mediatrix) sanctify and glorify us.
Saint Joseph probably accompanied Mary, returned to Nazareth, and when, after three months, he came again to Hebron to take his wife home, the apparition of the angel, mentioned in Matthew 1:19-25, may have taken place to end the tormenting doubts of Joseph regarding Mary's maternity.
A myriad of Roman Roads & Caravan Routes existed between Nazareth and Hebron
A possible route which Saint Joseph and Mary might have taken is the Via Maris (Way of the Sea), an ancient Caravan Trading Route passing through Nazareth and dating from the Early Bronze Age, which linked Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. If so, it would seemingly fit-in with Mary's title of Stellar Maris (Star of the Sea).