The Voice and the Silence

Behold Elizabeth as she speaketh with the Virgin Mary: Wherefore art thou, the Mother of my Lord, come unto me? Thou carriest the King, and I the soldier; thou the Giver of the Law, and I the expounder of the Law; thou the Word, and I the Voice that shall proclaim the Kingdom of the Heavens. (Theotokion of the Aposticha, Nativity of the Forerunner

Today’s festal commemoration is the birth of John the Forerunner, known to most English speakers as John the Baptist, which is narrated for us in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel.

A major thematic element for today is the Voice. Zachariah, not believing the archangel, is made bereft of his voice until such time as he participates in the naming of his son. Some might see in this a curiously arbitrary punishment, but for one who is a priest, as Zachariah was, losing one’s voice is no small thing. And this was not merely laryngitis, either. Zachariah could not function as a priest without his voice, and so for nine months, he is made to fast from his priestly office, and his voice is held fast and in check until his wife Elizabeth should give birth.

And then the one to whom Elizabeth gives birth is the Voice par excellence. He is the Voice crying in the wilderness, prophesied by Isaiah so many centuries before. And this Voice speaks only one Word, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Word of God.

Yes, we may say that Zachariah was “punished” for his lack of faith when the archangel spoke to him, but may we not also look deeper? Was it not appropriate that the priesthood of the Old Covenant, the Aaronic priesthood, should fall silent at the coming of the one who introduces us to the true, fulfilled priesthood of the New Covenant? In the Old Covenant, there was a priesthood of the flesh, a priesthood of Levites, but in the New Covenant there is now a priesthood into which all mankind may be initiated, the priesthood of Christ, which lasts forever, after the order of Melchizedek. Zachariah, a priest of the old priesthood, himself was ordained in this new priesthood when he named his son.

And so we too must lift our voices with the Voice, proclaiming that same Word.