By: Alyssa Johnson
I’ve been meditating about the Visitation a lot lately. I’ve been pondering the courage Mary had to travel across the hills of Judea alone. There could have been dangerous thieves along the way, but Mary had courage and faith that the Lord would safeguard her on her journey. I’m currently reading a book on the gifts of the Visitation and the next chapter is on the spirit of adventure. While on a retreat we had recently, I decided to jump in on Mary’s adventure and imagine what the scene was like.
The retreat we went on was in Evergreen, which is in the mountains. I began praying my rosary down by the half frozen stream. However, this sense of adventure kept popping into my head. I have a love for the saints and have been recently developing a relationship with Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Knowing him as a mountain man, I decided he should come along on my rosary walk. I began my excursion into the mountains with my buddy, Pier Giorgio. I had extra joy in praying the second mystery, the Visitation, as I hiked through the mountainous terrain. There were times where I wanted to stop hiking and just pray. But Blessed Pier whispered to me his motto, “Verso L’alto,” which translates to “to the heights.” So, I kept hiking.
There were points in my journey where I began to regret the decision to wander off into the mountains with just a rosary. Fear began to creep into my heart. But I still felt this sense of adventure. I felt like my hike was going to lead to an encounter with the Lord. The path I was hiking ended, but I wanted to go higher. Again, one of Blessed Frassati’s quotes came to mind, “The higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ.” I began running up the mountain, saying to myself, “Verso l’alto, verso l’alto!” I made it to the top and yelled, “Vivo Christo Rey!” I was overcome by the beauty of creation! I sang and danced on top of the mountain. What an amazing artist our creator is! By doing a 360 spin, I could see all four seasons. I was awe struck by the view. I was filled joy that I went as high up as I could to encounter Jesus. And then the realization of Advent hit me. In just a few short weeks, He will be coming down to earth to not only encounter me, but to save me from my wretchedness. I let the joy consume me as I continued to prance around the top of the mountain. The only thing that could make that moment better was someone to share it with.
Then, lo and behold, a fellow missionary found her way off the beaten path and was beginning to hike up the same mountain! I ran down to greet and embrace her. I felt like my dream adventure of the Visitation was coming true! She too had been longing for someone to share in the joy of being in nature. In our ecstasy, we ran to the top together. We pondered the Visitation together and then sang “O come o come, Emmanuel.” Then, in silence, we hiked down the mountain.
I believe the Lord gave me a taste of what the Visitation was like for Mary and Elizabeth. I experienced the fear of traveling alone, but the assurance that He was with me. The joy of being able to experience Jesus in creation and share that with a beautiful friend/ sister in Christ was such a gift. As we enter into the week of rejoicing, I challenge you to “verso l’alto” within your heart. Our hearts should be yearning to the heights. Be intentional when receiving the sacraments and prepare your heart for the greatest gift God could give. We are Israel and our time of wandering in the dessert is over. Jesus is coming to unite us to back to the Father. Gaudate!
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” Luke 1:46-47. “Shout for joy, daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, daughter Jerusalem.” Zephaniah 3:1
Alyssa is a first-year missionary from Minnesota. She enjoys hiking, traveling, baseball, dancing, coffee, and cozy candles.