September 5 (old calendar) / September 18 (new)
Holy Prophet Zachariah and Righteous Elizabeth, parents of St. John the Baptist (1st c.). Martyrdom of Ven. Athanasius, Abbot of Bretsk (1648). Martyrdom of the Holy Passionbearer Gleb (in holy Baptism David—1015). Martyr Tathuil, and his sister, Bebaia (98-138). Martyr Sarbelus of Edessa (2nd c.). Martyrs Juventinus and Maximus the soldiers, at Antioch (361-363). Martyrs Urban, Theodore, Medimnus, and 77 companions, at Nicomedia (370). Martyr Abdias (Obadiah) of Persia (5th c.).
The Holy Prophet Zachariah and the Righteous Elizabeth were the parents of the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John. They were descended from the lineage of Aaron: Saint Zachariah, son of Barach, was a priest in the Jerusalem Temple, and Saint Elizabeth was the sister of Saint Anna, the mother of the Most Holy Theotokos. The righteous spouses, “walking in all the commandments of the Lord (Luke 1:6), suffered barrenness, which in those times was considered a punishment from God.
Once, during his turn of priestly service in the Temple, Saint Zachariah was told by an angel that his aged wife would bear him a son, who “will be great in the sight of the Lord” (Luke 1:15) and “will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias” (Luke 1:17).
Zachariah doubted that this prediction would come true, and for his weakness of faith he was punished by becoming mute. When Elizabeth gave birth to a son, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit she announced that his name was John, although no one in their family had this name.
They asked Zachariah and he also wrote the name John down on a tablet. Immediately the gift of speech returned to him, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, he began to prophesy about his son as the Forerunner of the Lord.
When King Herod heard from the Magi about the birth of the Messiah, he decided to kill all the infants up to two years old at Bethlehem and the surrounding area, hoping that the new-born Messiah would be among them.
Herod knew about John’s unusual birth and he wanted to kill him, fearing that he was the foretold King of the Jews. But Elizabeth hid herself and the infant in the hills. The murderers searched everywhere for John. Elizabeth, when she saw her pursuers, began to implore God for their safety, and immediately the hill opened up and concealed her and the infant from their pursuers.
In these tragic days Saint Zachariah was taking his turn at the services in the Temple. Soldiers sent by Herod tried in vain to learn from him the whereabouts of his son. Then, by command of Herod, they murdered this holy prophet, having stabbed him between the temple and the altar (MT 23: 35). Elizabeth died forty days after her husband, and Saint John, preserved by the Lord, dwelt in the wilderness until the day of his appearance to the nation of Israel.
On the Greek calendar, Saints Zachariah and Elizabeth are also commemorated on June 24, the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.
Troparion and kontakion
Troparion of the saint, tone 4
Robed in the vestments of the priesthood, according to the Law of God you offered whole-burnt offerings in a sacred manner, wise Zachariah. You became a luminary and a seer of the mysteries, bearing within yourself the signs of grace, all-wise one. Slain by the sword in the temple of God, O prophet of Christ, intercede together with the Forerunner that our souls may be saved.
Kontakion of the saint, tone 3
Today the prophet Zachariah, priest of the Most High and parent of the Forerunner, has prepared a banquet to his memory to nourish the faithful, mixing the drink of righteousness. Therefore we praise him as a divine initiate of the grace of God.
- Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
- having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
- in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
- in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
- For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles –
- if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you,
- how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already,
- by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),
- which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:
- that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,
- of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.
- Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli,
- the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Janna, the son of Joseph,
- the son of Mattathiah, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,
- the son of Maath, the son of Mattathiah, the son of Semei, the son of Joseph, the son of Judah,
- the son of Joannas, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,
- the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmodam, the son of Er,
- the son of Jose, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,
- the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonan, the son of Eliakim,
- the son of Melea, the son of Menan, the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David,
- the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,
- the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,
- the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
- the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,
- the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
- the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan,
- the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
- Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,