Isaiah 11: 1-5
Romans 12: 9-16
St. Luke 1: 39-56
Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your gracious regard for the poor and lowly and despised. Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and faith, and so be made one with Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
About the Festival Day: John the Baptizer and Jesus, the two great figures of salvation history, now come together in the visit to Elizabeth by the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:39-45), both of whom conceived their children under miraculous circumstances. Thus John is brought into the presence of Jesus while they are still in their mothers’ wombs. This presence of the Lord causes a response by the child John as he leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. John’s response to the presence of Jesus, the Messiah, foreshadows John’s own role as forerunner. Already now, a new creation is beginning, and a baby still in the womb hails the new creation’s inception. Foreshadowed in John’s leap are the miracles of Jesus, who will cause all creation to leap at His presence: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22). The incarnate presence of the Messiah also evokes a response from Elizabeth, who proclaims Mary’s blessedness. Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) provides the theological significance of this meeting as Mary sums up her place in salvation history. Mary’s song is a hymn to God for His gracious gifts to the least in this world, whom He has lifted up out of lowliness solely because of His grace and mercy.
“… it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.”—Irenaeus of Lyons (died AD 202)
(The above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)
Reflection: The understanding from Ireanaeus of the contrast between Mary and Eve has obviously been around for sometime. It has become a liturgical and theological centerpiece of Eastern Orthodox churches. This dovetails well into Martin Luther’s understanding that the greatest miracle is not that Mary conceived but she believed. Many years ago, everyone was all agog about WWJD bracelets: What Would Jesus Do. A friend and colleague said those bracelets should have on them, WWMD: What Would Mary Do. She believed as the Word of the angel came into ear and into her heart (Romans 10:17). She received with the meekness the implanted Word(James 1:21). Mary and Elizabeth are the first Church as the Church is the body of Christ, so Mary bore the Christ. Because of the Christ in her womb, her body was the Church. Mary bore the Word made flesh, as does the Church if she is faithful to the Lord, as was Mary, even at times not understanding because of the weakness of the flesh (Luke 1:34). As Luther taught in the Large Catechism that the Church is a mother who begets every child through the Word of God. As it is written:
3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.Galatians 4:3-5
The Word of God made the virgin’s womb as He made all wombs and so:
Every child is gift. The Lord is sheer gift times two: God and man for all the diverse manner of women and men. And so when Mary greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s child, John, leaped in her womb when Elizabeth heard the greeting, the Word. She was filled with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word alone. The Church was there in the hill country of Judea. The temple of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We are made His through His Word alone in Holy Baptism and in faith. In the most humble of homes, the beauty of holiness shone within and without. St. Luke 1: 45: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Indeed! And so are you! The Church is made by His Word so that the Word be heard and sinners can hold fast to the Lord by His grace. As Elizabeth visited Mary and their Lord, so visit Him this day and every day in Word, in Holy Communion, in Prayer. He visits you with His Word, with His Baptism, with His Body and Blood! Blessed Festival Day!