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Alexander Ivanov 1824

Russian Museum

Annunciation of the Birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah

A reading of the holy Gospel according to LK 1:5-25

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years. Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute. Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home. After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”


Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him

Zechariah was a priest whose responsibilities included offering sacrifices and taking care of the Temple of the Lord. One of the duties of the priest was to make sure that the incense was burning before the Lord at all times. He was doing that when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him. Zechariah came from the tribe of Levi, descendant of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel. He is old and childless. He observed the Torah and the commandments. Though old his prayers for a child were being answered. When told by the angel of the birth of John the Baptist, he did not believe him.

Why did Zechariah doubt? We are told he was troubled and fear came upon him when he saw the angel Gabriel. Surely Zechariah knew about angelic messengers. Why would he doubt? Why was he fearful?

When our prayers are answered, it can be subtle. By increments we see our situation improving or we can get an immediate unequivocal response. Had Zechariah lost hope? Did he have that perfect faith that besides all the contraries, believed that God can answer in ways that we do not understand? Humility can help us with our weakness of faith. God speaks to us every moment of our lives. Do we listen? Do we respond? Do we fail to obey?

Did not God say to Abraham, "Be not afraid; I am your protector". (Genesis 15:1)

Persevere in prayer, expecting the answer in God's timing and God's goodness abounding in His answer. Did not Jesus say to Peter, "O man of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:29-31)

Give your fear to God. He will give you His hand, hold tightly to you and walk with you the rest of the journey.

"O" Antiphon

December 19

O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse) Isaiah 1:1; 11:10

O Root of Jesse's stem,

sign of God's love for all his people:

come to save us without delay!

God Bless You


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