From “Sermon on the Papyrus of Turin” (ca. 350)

Mary greets Elizabeth with an outward greeting, and when the two greet each other in a visible manner, the Holy Spirit who dwelled in Mary’s womb incites him who is in Elizabeth’s womb, as one who urges on a friend, “Hurry, get up!” Therefore he who dwelled in Elizabeth’s womb leapt. And behold: Christ poke to him saying, “Go forth; make straight the paths, so that I may realize the plan that has been determined for me…

Do you not hear that he who is in Mary’s womb and he who is in Elizabeth’s womb are exchanging greetings, while the son of the barren woman announces to the whole world, “Behold the Son of God in the womb of the holy virgin, Mary.”

But, you say, how does this happen? Listen and I will tell you. The moment John heard his mater’s voice, he greeted him through the mouth of his mother, and then he rejoiced and delighted to hasten forth from his mother’s womb in advance of his master.

St. Athanasius (ca. 298-373) was a bishop and theologian, the great defender of the Nicene confession of Christ’s true divinity. He was the primary spokesman for the orthodox cause at the Council of Nicaea and became Bishop of Alexandria several years later. He also played an important role in finalizing the canon of New Testament books. The sermon, which is from a Coptic manuscript discovered in the twentieth century, was preached at Alexandria during the period of his greatest influence, after his second return from exile. He is commemorated on May 2 by Western Christians, on May 15 by the Coptic Church, and on January 18 by the other Eastern Orthodox churches. This text is adapted from the translation in Luigi Gambrero, Mary among the Fathers of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999).