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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Saints Elizabeth and Zachary

St. Elizabeth (Feastday: November 5th) 
The name Elizabeth, which has been borne by several saints, means in Hebrew "worshiper of God." All that we know of Elizabeth, wife of Zachary and mother of John the Baptist, is to be found in the book of Luke. A descendant of the priestly line of Aaron, she was a kinswoman–how close we are not told–of the Virgin Mary.

According to the Gospel, Elizabeth had lived a blameless life with her husband in one of the hill-towns of Judea. Having reached an advanced age with her prayers for a son unanswered, she thought that her barrenness was a reproach. One day, while Zachary was serving in the temple, the Angel Gabriel appeared at the right of the altar, and announced that a son would be born to Elizabeth. It was in the sixth month of her pregnancy that the Virgin Mary came to visit her–a touching and beautiful scene pictured by many great artists.

The Angel Gabriel, having lately announced to Mary the destiny that awaited her, also told her that her kinswoman Elizabeth was with child. The Virgin Mary, eager to share in Elizabeth's happiness and to confide that she too would bear a child, traveled down the dusty road from Nazareth. On Mary's arrival, she was amazed when Elizabeth, having foreseen knowledge, greeted her as "mother of my Lord." Elizabeth's salutation was in these words: "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, the moment that the sound of thy greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who has believed, because the things promised her by the Lord shall be accomplished."

The Gospel story tells us further that at Elizabeth's delivery her friends and neighbors rejoiced with her, and when the child was brought to be circumcised, they were going to call him after his father Zachary, but his mother said, "His name shall be John."

Excerpted from Lives of Saints, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

St. Zachary
St. Zachary's  feast is celebrated on the same day as that of St. Elizabeth, his wife. He was of the tribe of  bia, and a member of the priestly class. It was normal for the priests whose time it was to serve in the temple to cast lots each day for the performance of the various rituals. One day, during Zachary's service, the privilege of offering incense on the altar fell to him, and while he was alone before the altar performing this rite, the Angel Gabriel appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar. Zachary was troubled and afraid. Then Gabriel spoke, saying that the prayers of the priest and his wife would be answered; a son was to be born to them, and his name was to be John. Zachary found this hard to believe, for both he and Elizabeth were advanced in years. Overcoming his fear, he asked the angel for some sign. Because he doubted, the angel announced that Zachary would be stricken dumb and would regain the power of speech only when the prophecy was fulfilled. Then the angel disappeared and Zachary came forth from the temple. 

The people saw that he was unable to speak and they knew then that he had received a vision from the Lord.

Elizabeth conceived and gave birth to the one who was to be the Precursor of the Lord. After eight days, when the child was about to be circumcised, Elizabeth told the people that he was to be named John; and Zachary, still unable to speak, asked for a tablet, and on it he wrote the words, "John is his name." At this moment Zachary's tongue was loosed, and he began to praise the Lord. The New Testament tells us nothing further concerning St. Zachary. In Hebrew his name means "Jehovah hath remembered."

Excerpted from Lives of Saints, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

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