As we Orthodox continue our sojourn through the Dormition Fast, we remember that giving honor to the Mother of Jesus Christ is an idea that comes from the Scriptures themselves. In Luke 1:39-44 we find this description of Jesus’ Mother visiting her cousin, Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist:
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.
Note in the Gospel Lesson:
Elizabeth’s baby leaps for joy in her womb when Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice.
Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit upon hearing Mary’s voice.
Elizabeth is filled with awe that the Mother of her Lord visits her. She is not rejoicing in the visit of her Lord, but of His Mother.
It is the visit of Mary which prompts such joy in the unborn baby and in Elizabeth herself. There is a clear sense in the Gospel that Mary’s presence also brings the Holy Spirit into the life of Elizabeth and her unborn son, John.
History scholar Jaroslav Pelikan notes that
“Saint Elizabeth, mother of Saint John the Forerunner, greeted the Blessed Virgin Mary as ‘the mother of my Lord’ (Luke 1:43). This becomes the biblical foundation for the liturgical and dogmatic language of the church by the Council of Ephesus in 431: ‘Therefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. According to this understanding of the unconfused union, we confess the Holy Virgin to be the Mother of God because God the Word took flesh and became man and from his very conception united to himself the temple he took from her.” (Acts, pp 221-222)