When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
~ Luke 1.41
I will never forget the 10-week ultrasound for my fourth child (now, alas, a teenager). As Fred the technician zeroed in on the tiny fetal image, I saw the baby moving with impossible exuberance. “Look—that baby’s doing the mambo,” the technician chuckled. For the three of us—Fred, my husband and me—it was a moment of pure joy.
I like to think of Elizabeth’s unborn baby, the future prophet John the Baptist, dancing with a like delight in today’s Gospel of the Visitation. The infant “leaped” for joy, Luke tells us, using a Greek verb that designates not garden-variety jumping, but the exuberant springing of a young lamb, as in Psalm 114: The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs. The joy of encounter with Christ is contagious. It starts with the unborn John and spreads to Elizabeth, who is “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Elizabeth’s joyful embrace of her young cousin in turn sparks Mary’s rejoicing, as her soul proclaims the grandeur of God.
So it is with us. When Christ truly indwells in our hearts, we cannot help but communicate our joy to others. The 16th-century English scholar and biblical translator William Tyndale vividly described the human response to the Word: “Evangelion (that we call gospel) is a Greek word, and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy.” As Christmas draws near, let us sing, dance and skip like lambs as we share with others the good news of Christ’s coming.
LORD of all created things, Fill me with the joy of your loving presence so that I may spread it in turn to others. Amen.
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