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And he became mute

Submitted by on Saturday, 19 December 2009No Comment


Be silent, everyone,
in the presence of the LORD,
for he stirs in his Holy Dwelling.
(Zechariah 2:13)

L uke begins his account of the Good News in the Temple and especially in the Holy of Holies with a priest. The Temple is the locus from which Holiness spreads throughout the land where the people of God resides. The priest is the one who makes possible the sanctification of God’s Holy people. It is from the loins of a priest that John the Baptist will come forth to prepare a people to meet the Lord. It is the priest who instructs the people regarding the way’s of God.

Zechariah is the first to receive the good news from an angel: that he will have a son who will have the power of Elijah and will prepare the way of the Lord. But Zechariah did not believe in the angel. Hence he lost the power of speech: that power by which he as priest of the Lord instructs and as a Jew proclaims the wonders of God.

The silence was in a sense a punishment: it was enforced on Zechariah because of his lack of faith. However, one can also look at it from a different point of view: Zechariah became mute, an externalization of the condition of his soul. "The mouth speaks from the fulness of the heart". The "heart" is the place where all that one knows becomes integrated into one’s life project. Here knowledge is transformed into lifestyle through the decisions one makes. It is also from the heart that one shares — through human speech — one’s wisdom and more specially, one’s knowledge of God. Through the mouth, one praises God, glorifies Him, proclaims his wondrous works, blesses, instructs in the ways of holiness, prophesies. When one who has been doing this suddenly becomes mute, something must have happened in his heart. What made Zechariah ask a question that the angel understood to be unbelief?

Perhaps the day Zechariah entered the Holy of Holies, he has stopped believing that he would have a son. He was still faithful to the commandments, he was still pious, but with the onset of age, he has accepted the physical impossibility that he will have the son he has been long waiting for.

Silence was enforced upon Zechariah so that he can go home and watch the growing womb of his wife and see there the sign that he has been wrong about his own ideas regarding the way God moves among men. He had to remain silent, not being able to share in the quiet joy of his wife’s anticipation of motherhood, so as to awaken his heart once more to receive the Good News of the angel that when the time comes — and it will come — he could bless the name of the Lord and prophesy about his son.

Luke 1:5-25 in the Catechism

T The paragraphs of the Catechism that refer to the episode of the angel’s visit to Zechariah concentrate not on the figure of Zechariah but on the figure of John the Baptist who comes in the spirit of Elijah.

Luke 1:11 "there appeared to him an angel of the Lord"
332 Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples. Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.
724 In Mary, the Holy Spirit manifests the Son of the Father, now become the Son of the Virgin. She is the burning bush of the definitive theophany. Filled with the Holy Spirit she makes the Word visible in the humility of his flesh. It is to the poor and the first representatives of the gentiles that she makes him known.
1:15 "even from his mother’s womb"
717 "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John." John was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb" by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.
1:17 in the spirit and power of Elijah
523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. "Prophet of the Most High", John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being "the friend of the bridegroom", whom he points out as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world". Going before Jesus "in the spirit and power of Elijah", John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.
696 Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who "arose like fire" and whose "word burned like a torch," brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel. This event was a "figure" of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes "before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah," proclaims Christ as the one who "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." Jesus will say of the Spirit: "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!" In the form of tongues "as of fire," the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions. "Do not quench the Spirit."
716 The People of the "poor" – those who, humble and meek, rely solely on their God’s mysterious plans, who await the justice, not of men but of the Messiah – are in the end the great achievement of the Holy Spirit’s hidden mission during the time of the promises that prepare for Christ’s coming. It is this quality of heart, purified and enlightened by the Spirit, which is expressed in the Psalms. In these poor, the Spirit is making ready "a people prepared for the Lord."
718 John is "Elijah [who] must come." The fire of the Spirit dwells in him and makes him the forerunner of the coming Lord. In John, the precursor, the Holy Spirit completes the work of "[making] ready a people prepared for the Lord."
2684 In the communion of saints, many and varied spiritualities have been developed throughout the history of the churches. The personal charism of some witnesses to God’s love for men has been handed on, like "the spirit" of Elijah to Elisha and John the Baptist, so that their followers may have a share in this spirit. A distinct spirituality can also arise at the point of convergence of liturgical and theological currents, bearing witness to the integration of the faith into a particular human environment and its history. The different schools of Christian spirituality share in the living tradition of prayer and are essential guides for the faithful. In their rich diversity they are refractions of the one pure light of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit is truly the dwelling of the saints and the saints are for the Spirit a place where he dwells as in his own home since they offer themselves as a dwelling place for God and are called his temple.

1:23 "ministry"
1070 In the New Testament the word "liturgy" refers not only to the celebration of divine worship but also to the proclamation of the Gospel and to active charity. In all of these situations it is a question of the service of God and neighbor. In a liturgical celebration the Church is servant in the image of her Lord, the one "leitourgos"; she shares in Christ’s priesthood (worship), which is both prophetic (proclamation) and kingly (service of charity):

The liturgy then is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. It involves the presentation of man’s sanctification under the guise of signs perceptible by the senses and its accomplishment in ways appropriate to each of these signs. In it full public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and his members. From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of his Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree

Zechariah 2:13
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
13Let all flesh be silent at the presence of the Lord: for he is risen up out of his. holy habitation.
Luke 1:5-25
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
5There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zachary, of the course of Abia; and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name Elizabeth.
6And they were both just before God, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame.
7And they had no son, for that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were well advanced in years.
8And it came to pass, when he executed the priestly function in the order of his course before God,
9According to the custom of the priestly office, it was his lot to offer incense, going into the temple of the Lord.
10And all the multitude of the people was praying without, at the hour of incense.
11And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the alter of incense.
12And Zachary seeing him, was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13But the angel said to him: Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John:
14And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice in his nativity.
15For he shall be great before the Lord; and shall drink no wine nor strong drink: and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
16And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias; that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people.
18And Zachary said to the angel: Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.
19And the angel answering, said to him: I am Gabriel, who stand before God: and am sent to speak to thee, and to bring thee these good tidings.
20And behold, thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be able to speak until the day wherein these things shall come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words, which shall be fulfilled in their time.
21And the people were waiting for Zachary; and they wondered that he tarried so long in the temple.
22And when he came out, he could not speak to them: and they understood that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he made signs to them, and remained dumb.
23And it came to pass, after the days of his office were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
24And after those days, Elizabeth his wife conceived, and hid herself five months, saying:
25Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he hath had regard to take away my reproach among men.
Luke 1:11
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
11And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the alter of incense.

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