As part of our preparation for the Glorious Nativity of our Savior, our Mother, the Holy Church, nourished us today on the third Sunday of Koiak with the account of the visit of the Holy Theotokos Mary to her cousin, the Holy Elizabeth.
In Luke 1:41, we read what happened when the Holy Theotokos greeted her: “And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41 NKJV). In other words, the Holy Forerunner, John the Baptist, while still a foetus in his mother’s womb, began leaping, kicking, and dancing in excitement when the pregnant Holy Theotokos approached.
This scene is actually the fulfillment of an earlier prophetic scene in the Old Testament. In the Book of 2 Kingdoms in the LXX (2 Samuel in Protestant Bibles), we read in chapter 6 how King David danced and leapt in excitement when the Ark of the Covenant came to Jerusalem. The Ark of the Covenant contained the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written in addition to other holy articles, like some of the manna that God sent from heaven to the Hebrews as they wandered in the wilderness. It was the visible presence of God with His people; to approach the Ark in the Old Testament was to approach God Himself. King David leapt and danced when the Ark came to Jerusalem, because God Himself was coming to dwell in Jerusalem. In the same way, The Holy Forerunner, the John the Baptist, leapt and danced in his mother’s womb, because Mary — she who is the new Ark of the Covenant as we say in the Sunday Theotokion — contained within her body the true presence of God, the preexistent Son of God in the flesh.
In the Ark was a portion of the manna, the bread that descended from heaven as dew (Ex 16:33). In the womb of the Most Holy Theotokos was the Bread of Life Himself, our Savior Jesus Christ, Who came as the dew and was incarnate from her. As the Holy Augustine says, “Christ alone is the sweetness of dew” (On the Psalms, 138.7). Amazingly, the Holy Church nourished us just six days ago with the commemoration of the Holy Warrior Gideon. We remember well the Sign of the Fleece and Dew from his life, which is a clear prophecy of our Savior’s Incarnation:
So Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said—look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.” And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.” And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground (Jdg 6:36–40).
The sign of the coming dew was a sign of salvation; it signified God’s promise to defeat the enemies of Israel by Gideon’s hand. Our Savior Himself is a fulfillment of this promise. By His self-emptying and Incarnation, He saved us from our greatest enemies, sin and death.
What the Holy Forerunner does in Lk 1:41 is also a fulfillment of the Holy Archangel Gabriel’s words: “He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Lk 1:15). It was the Holy Spirit that enabled to understand all of this, even as a foetus in his mother’s womb.
For this reason, we can say that the Holy Forerunner is unique in that he learned how to dance before he learned how to walk!