Origen reminds us that better men go to weaker men to give them some advantage by their visits – and here the Saviour comes to John to sanctify John’s baptism, before Mary came and greeted Elizabeth, the infant did not rejoice in her womb, but as soon as Mary spoke the word that the Son of God, in his mother’s womb, had supplied, the infant leaped in joy.
The Venerable Bede commented that the visitation took place so that Our Lady could offer her congratulations to her cousin and fellow servant on the gift which she has received – this was an example of how Mary committed herself to a ministry to a woman of advanced age. Elizabeth recognises the great gifts of God and sensed who it was who lay in the womb of her cousin; she was full of the Spirit. The fruit of Mary’s womb was indeed a blessing to us all – for through him we have recovered both the seed of incorruption and the fruit of our heavenly inheritance lost through the fall of Adam.
St Augustine reckoned that the leaping in the womb was ‘among the great signs’, effected not by human means, but by divine means in the infant – an example of his extraordinary powers.
Origen tells us that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit via her son. He refers to Gospel manuscripts which have Our Lady prophesying through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Bede writes of the great humility shown by Elizabeth in her words to Mary. She knows herself unworthy of the honour, not worthy, if you will, to unlace the strap of Mary;s sandals, but she is happy to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit. Both women believe, and they receive the fruits of their faithfulness.