Festival of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Scripture: Judges 13:1-25 (NKJV)
13:1 Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.
2 Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. 5 For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”
6 So the woman came and told her husband, saying, “A Man of God came to me, and His countenance was like the countenance of the Angel of God, very awesome; but I did not ask Him where He was from, and He did not tell me His name. 7 And He said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now drink no wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’”
8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord, and said, “O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born.”
9 And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the Angel of God came to the woman again as she was sitting in the field; but Manoah her husband was not with her. 10 Then the woman ran in haste and told her husband, and said to him, “Look, the Man who came to me the other day has just now appeared to me!”
11 So Manoah arose and followed his wife. When he came to the Man, he said to Him, “Are You the Man who spoke to this woman?”
And He said, “I am.”
12 Manoah said, “Now let Your words come to pass! What will be the boy’s rule of life, and his work?”
13 So the Angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. 14 She may not eat anything that comes from the vine, nor may she drink wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean. All that I commanded her let her observe.”
15 Then Manoah said to the Angel of the Lord, “Please let us detain You, and we will prepare a young goat for You.”
16 And the Angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Though you detain Me, I will not eat your food. But if you offer a burnt offering, you must offer it to the Lord.” (For Manoah did not know He was the Angel of the Lord.)
17 Then Manoah said to the Angel of the Lord, “What is Your name, that when Your words come to pass we may honor You?”
18 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?”
19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it upon the rock to the Lord. And He did a wondrous thing while Manoah and his wife looked on—20 it happened as the flame went up toward heaven from the altar—the Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar! When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground. 21 When the Angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the Lord.
22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!”
23 But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have told us such things as these at this time.”
24 So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Visitation—the day when Mary, being now pregnant with the Christ Child by the power of the Holy Spirit, visited the elderly Elizabeth, who also carried John the Baptist in her womb. The miraculous conceptions of both John and the Christ are prefigured by the conception and birth of the judge Samson.
Samson was not born of a virgin, and neither was John the Baptist. Therefore, in all the history of the world, only the Christ was born of a virgin, so that we would know Him as the Son of God. But Samson’s birth was still a miraculous one; his mother was barren and, although she conceived by her husband in the usual manner, it was God who opened her womb so that Samson would be a miraculous gift from God. This same Samson would later deliver the Israelites out of the hands of the unbelieving Philistines.
Samson’s birth points forward to both the Christ and the Baptist, His prophet. Samson and John the Baptist were conceived in the same way: by the ordinary union of husband and wife, but requiring a special act of God to open the womb. Samson is also the small miracle which points to the greater. The Christ has no earthly father, but only God the Father. Just as Samson delivered the Israelites from the Philistines, Christ delivered His Church from sin and Satan, and both men did so by dying.
We pray: Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, unto Thy servants the gift of Thy heavenly grace, that, as the Son of the Virgin Mary hath made us partakers of salvation, we may daily grow in grace; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.