Luke 1, 39-45
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in the womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped of joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
“During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” (cf. verse 39-40)
Mary sets out for a town in the hill country of Judah. It is expressly said, she went on the way in haste, because at the Annunciation a sign was given to her by the archangel Gabriel: “Behold, even Elizabeth your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age; even though she is said to be barren, she is already in her sixth month”. (Luke 1,36) Without really understanding, she said her “yes” to this in faith, and now she hurries to Elizabeth to see that promised sign. Her haste is determined by the expectant joy of this sign; and when she sees it, the powerful praise of God of the Magnificat bursts out of her.
“And it came to pass, when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said: Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (cf. verse 41-42)
Immediately at the greeting, God gives Mary the promise sign and much more happens that just the sober sign – namely, that Elizabeth has conceived a child while still in her old age – because the first encounter between Jesus and John takes place, in the expectant mothers.
Heinz Schürmann translates from the Greek not simply “he leapt” but “He leaps for joy.” “He leaps in jubilation.” And this leap of joy of John is, as it were, the wedding dance of the bride and groom. In John – who is, after all, filled with the Holy Spirit and freed from original sin – the Bride of Christ, namely the Church is, as it were already rejoicing. This is therefore a very deep and wonderful statement.
So, from the beginning, John has the task of pointing toward Jesus. He is the bride leader who gathers the Church – in this case: the disciples – and leads them to Jesus, the groom. Already at this first meeting he begins this wedding jubilation.
“And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped of joy” (cf. verse 43-44)
Elizabeth – filled with the Holy Spirit – proclaims the truth witnessed by her child, namely that Mary did not conceive just any child, but Christ, the Lord, for whom John is to prepare the way. It is expressly said: she called out loudly. Her loud calling points to God’s spirit that filled her. So, it is also said about Jesus, when he stood in the temple: “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as a Scripture says ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him´ He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. (John 7: 37-39) This loud cry of Elizabeth is therefore the cry for the Spirit. Elizabeth recognizes him in the womb of his mother based on the anointing of the Holy Spirit, i.e., her knowledge of Christ is entirely Spirit-empowered. Peter experiences something similar in another place: “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven.” (John 16,17)
Mary is the mother of the Messiah, she is the most graced of all women, as Elizabeth expresses it. This mystery of Mary, also in the sense of her mission within the Church and within the Kingdom of God, is not yet fully exhausted theologically and Mariologically, not yet fully recognized. Shürmann point out e.g., points out that the Greek word “Agalliasis” does not only mean the greeting of Jesus by John, but already contains the eschatological rejoicing over the dawn of the Messiah’s kingdom. What happens here between John and Jesus, this leaping and this rejoicing of John in the womb of his mother is then not simply a private affair between John and Jesus, but it is already the final rejoicing of the whole church and heaven over the dawning of the Messiah’s kingdom. This rejoicing is brought forward here in the womb of the mother, as it were, by God. Already, here in the wedding dance of the bride’s leader begins.
“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled”
Here Mary’s motherhood is already deeply understood and expressed, namely also as spiritual motherhood: Mary is the woman of faith. With her, faith begins on earth and therefore she can say of herself: “Behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed” (Luke 1,48). She is not only the mother of Jesus, but as a woman of faith she is the mother of all people. This is her actual mission of salvation within God’s plan of salvation, which is already deeply expressed here through Elizabeth.
This, already on this fourth Sunday of Advent, the mystery of the Incarnation of God is prepared. We already begin here to contemplate this mystery in Mary’s womb. Who is He whom she has conceived? Who is she that she will give birth to him? What mission does she have? What incomprehensible things have been given to us by God with this Incarnation? Are we still grateful for it? Does the expectation of Christmas really live in us? Because this is the meaning of the Gospel, that also in us this Incarnation becomes possible anew and in a deepened way, and not without Mary. She, the woman of faith, introduces us to the mystery of her interior, to the mystery of Jesus. ∎