On the Fourth Sunday [that is, today] before Christmas, the Syrian Church remembers the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. In the Byzantine Church, there is no feast of the Visitation, though this gospel is the common gospel for Matins of Feasts of the Theotokos.
We see here the first appearance of the Forerunner John, then a six month infant in the womb of Elizabeth, and “when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb. (Luke 1:41)” John and Jesus are closely connected in the Feast of Light: Christmas together with the Theophany, the baptism of Jesus by John. The two: John and Jesus are to be closely connected in the preaching of the Gospel, with quite different styles, “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works. (Matthew 11:18-19″ Christmas is in the first place, the birth of Wisdom, and the coming of Christ would be “destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted. (the prophecy of Simeon, Luke 2:34)”
The Theotokos, a prophetess in her own right, today foretells what this means, “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)” If we have ears, we must hear this prophecy, Christmas is not a time for arrogance and power and riches, because these are about to be overthrown. There is no future in them. It is a time for humility, for earthly weakness and for poverty. We do not often see Christmas in this perspective, but it is here that the gospel and faith in Christ leads us.
Meditation by Archpriest David Petras
Icon by Christine Uveges of Eikona Studios