Prophet Zachariah and his wife righteous Elizabeth came from priestly lines. St. Elizabeth was the sister of Righteous Anna, the mother of the Most Holy Virgin Mary. St. Zachariah served in the Jerusalem Temple. The Evangelist Luke mentions Zachariah and Elizabeth in the first chapter of his Gospel, where he tells of the birth of Prophet John the Baptist. He says that they were both righteous before God, doing all things according to the commandments and laws of the Lord without fault. Having reached old age, they remained childless. They endured many sorrows for this reason, because the Jews considered barrenness to be a punishment from God for sins.
Finally the Lord sent Archangel Gabriel to tell Zachariah, who was praying in the Temple, that he would soon have a son born to him. The archangel commanded him to name his son John, and foretold that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, and that he would turn many of the sons of Israel to God, working in the spirit and power of Prophet Elias. All of his activity would be directed toward preparing people for the coming of the Savior.
Soon after the appearance of the archangel, Elizabeth conceived. At the birth of John the Baptist a miracle happened: Zachariah who had been stricken dumb after he questioned the archangel about this miraculous conceiving regained the gift of speech. Zachariah praised God in holy exaltation and foretold to his newborn son, “You shall be called a prophet of the Most High, for you shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way.”
But the righteous parents would not rejoice for long over their long-awaited son. Six months later in Bethlehem, the Lord Jesus Christ was born. When King Herod heard of it he was afraid that he would lose his throne, and he ordered that all the infants in Bethlehem and surrounding areas be killed. Righteous Joseph with the Virgin Mary and the infant Christ fled to Egypt, while righteous Elizabeth saved John by fleeing to the desert by the Dead Sea. King Herod searched for John, sending soldiers to the temple to find out from Zachariah where Elizabeth was hiding. When Zachariah refused to her whereabouts reveal to them, the soldiers slew him between the temple and the altar. According to tradition, his spilled blood hardened on the marble floor, and for many years reminded those who came to pray there of Herod’s evil deed.
Meanwhile, Righteous Elizabeth was living with her infant in a cave. She did not live long—the infant John was only a few years old when he became an orphan. Preserved by the Lord and fed by angels, he remained in the austere desert until the days of his appearance to the Israelites as a preacher of repentance.
Prayer to Prophet Zachariah and Righteous Elizabeth
O holy God-pleasers, Prophet Zachariah and Righteous Elizabeth! Ye didst labor well on earth, and received crowns of righteousness in the Heavens, which the Lord prepared for all those who love Him. Looking also upon your holy image, we rejoice at the most glorious end of your lives and honor your holy memory. You do stand before the throne of God, so accept our prayers and bring them to the Most Merciful God, that He may grant us forgiveness of all our transgressions and help us to withstand the devils attacks, that being delivered from sorrows, sickness, calamities, attacks, and all evil, we might honorably and righteously live in this age and be vouchsafed your intercessions. For we are unworthy to behold good things in the land of the living, glorifying the One God Who is glorified in His saints, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Troparion of the saints, Tone 2:
Celebrating the memory of Thy righteous ones, Zacharias and Elizabeth, O Lord, through them do we entreat Thee: Save Thou our souls!