Monday, January 30, 2006

John the Baptist, sometimes forgotten

Roman Catholics sometimes forget John the Baptist. When you think about it, it can happen. After all, his contemporary was Jesus. The life of Christ overshadows John, and that is fine to a point. But John, even before his birth teaches us something very important about Christ.

I was praying the rosary the other day and took some extra time on the second joyful mystery, the Visitation. This is where Mary goes to see Elizabeth. In Luke the scene plays out like this:

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 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. 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 for joy.
-Luke 1:39-44

So John leaps was he hears Mary. We are reminded in the old testament that:

David feared the LORD that day and said, "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?" So David would not have the ark of the LORD brought to him in the City of David, but diverted it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and his whole house. When it was reported to King David that the LORD had blessed the family of Obed-edom and all that belonged to him, David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the City of David amid festivities. As soon as the bearers of the ark of the LORD had advanced six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. Then David, girt with a linen apron, came dancing before the LORD with abandon, as he and all the Israelites were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn.
-2 Samuel 6:9-15

There are similarities between the two stories, but it is Luke's language that is very important. Luke uses the same greek verb for John leaping as was used for David dancing. The verb is used for a holy dance of joy.

So John does the same thing upon hearing May's voice as David did upon seeing the ark. Mary is the new ark: she is the God bearer the Theotokos. As St. Athanasius said of Mary:

O Ark of the new covenant, clad on all sides with purity in place of gold; the one in whom is found the golden vase with its true manna, that is the flesh in which lies the God-head.

The Ark of God. It contained the staff of priesthood, the tablets of the law and mana from the desert.

Mary, as the new Ark, carried the new priesthood, the living law and the bread of heaven.

John the Baptist, as an infant with eyes that can not yet see, is the first to proclaim Christ. It is even before Mary's beautfiul Canticle the Magnificant.

John heard Mary's voice and saw the Son of the Living God with his heart. Even as an infant, he paves the way for Christ with this basic and beautiful truth.

The picture I have here is a painting of Mary with Jesus and John as children.

1 comment:

Deacon John said...

"John leaps when he hears Mary."

To add further insight to this sacred "Visitation", the Archangel Gabriel had told Zachary, John's father, that John "shall be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb . . ." (Lk 1:15) "And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant" -- filled, like the mother, with the Holy Ghost -- "leaped for joy in her womb", (Lk 1:41) as if to acknowledge the presence of his Lord. Then was accomplished the prophetic utterance of the angel that the child should "be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb". Now as the presence of any sin whatever is incompatible with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the soul, it follows that at this moment John was cleansed from the stain of original sin.

So, really, it was Jesus' Presence in Mary's womb that caused hin to "leap" as he was instantly sanctified and freed from 'Original Sin.'

How wonderful it is that we are sanctified at our baptism by the Holy Spirit through the blessed water, we too can "leap" for joy! and sing with Our Blessed Lady, "My soul does magnify the Lord . . ."