The Holy Saint Elizabeth,
Mother of the Forerunner


St Elizabeth, Mother of the Forerunner and Baptist, John



(From the Prologue from Ochrid)

The Holy Prophet Zacharias, father of St. John the Forerunner, was the son of Barachias, of the tribe of Aaron, a high priest in descent from Abia, and held the eighth degree of service in the Temple in Jerusalem.

His wife, Elisabeth was sister to St. Anna, the mother of the holy Mother of God. In the reign of King Herod, the child-slayer, Zacharias was serving one day in his turn in the Temple in Jerusalem. An angel of God appeared to him in the altar, and Zacharias was afraid. But the angel said to him: "Fear not, Zacharias," and informed him that his wife Elisabeth would bear a son in answer to their prayers, for Zacharias and Elisabeth were both old. When Zacharias doubted the words of the heavenly messenger, the angel told him: "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God," And Zacharias was made dumb from that moment, and did not speak until his son was born and he had written on a tablet: "His name is John." Then his mouth was opened, and he glorified God.

Later, when the Lord Christ was born and Herod began killing the children in Bethlehem, he sent men to find Zacharias's son and kill him, for he had heard of all that had happened to Zacharias and how John was born. Seeing the soldiers, Elisabeth took John in her arms -- he was eighteen months old at that time -- and fled from the house with him to a rocky and desert region. When she saw where the soldiers had driven them, she cried out to the mountain "O mountain of God, receive a mother with her child!" and the rock opened and hid the mother and child inside itself. Herod, furious that John had not been killed, ordered that Zacharias be cut down before the altar. Zacharias's blood spilled over the marble and became as hard as stone, remaining thus as a witness to Herod's wickedness. At the place where Elisabeth hid with John, a cave opened and a spring flowed forth, and a fruit-bearing palm grew up by God's power. Forty days after Zacharias's death, blessed Elisabeth also entered into rest. The child John stayed in the wilderness, fed by an angel and guarded by God's providence, until that day when he appeared by the Jordan.

From another source:

During the days of King Herod of Judaea, Zacharias, a priest of the Abijah section of the priesthood, was burning incense in the Lord's sanctuary in the Temple when the Archangel St. Gabriel appeared to him, telling him that a son would soon be born to his wife Elizabeth whom they must call John who would lead many of the Israelites back to God. When Zechariah doubted the angel's words due to his wife's barrenness, St. Gabriel struck him dumb, telling him that, as he did not believe the archangel's words, he would remain mute himself until these things had come to pass. When the priest's time of service had ended, he went back home where his wife conceived (Luke 1:5-25).

As Elizabeth was in her sixth month, the Archangel St. Gabriel visited the Blessed Virgin Mary, telling her of God's plan for her. Mary told him, "You see before you the Lord's servant, let it happen to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38). Mary's act of complete faith is yet another mark of her holiness, for her faith, that of a young woman, excelled even that of the priest, and the work God wrought in her was even more wondrous than that which He wrought in Elizabeth. St. Gabriel's visit to Mary is now known as the Annunciation and is commemorated on March 25th each year. (Luke 1:26-38).

Elizabeth is said to have been a cousin of Mary, and just after the Annunciation, Mary hurried off to the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah. Upon her arrival, the child in Elizabeth's womb lept for joy, and Elizabeth praised Mary as "the mother of my Lord" (Luke 1:43), and Mary praised God. Mary then stayed with Elizabeth some three months before going home, apparently until just before the birth of St. John the Baptist. This incident, known as the Visitation, is now commemorated as the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary (Luke 1:39-56).

Following this, Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and on the eighth day, at the ceremony of circumcision, as the people were going to name the boy Zechariah after his father, Elizabeth spoke up, demanding that he be called John. They made signs to question the father who took a tablet and wrote, "His name is John." At that his power of speech was restored and Zechariah praised God and prophesied (Luke 1:59-79). John then grew and went to live in the desert until his public ministry (Luke 1:80).

St. Elizabeth is often called upon by those who wish to have children.

Selections from the Service to Righteous Zachariah and Elizabeth (September 5)

Troparion of Righteous Elizabeth
(Tone 8)

The barren wilderness thou didst make fertile with the streams of thy tears; and by thy deep sighing thou hast given fruit through thy struggles a hundredfold. Accordingly, thou hast become a star for the universe, sparkling with miracles. Therefore, O righteous Mother Elizabeth, intercede with Christ God to save our souls.

Kontakion of Righteous Elizabeth
(Tone 4)

Like the full moon, thou didst receive the light of righteousness from the Messiah, the noetic Sun, O Elizabeth beloved of God, and with Zacharias didst walk in all the commandments of the Lord. Wherefore, blessing thee with worthy hymns, we magnify the Lord, the most compassionate Light, Who illumineth all.

Exapostilarion of the Righteous Elizabeth
(Spec Melody: "The heaven with stars...")

Thou wast the glory of barren mothers, the model of virtues for sinners, O blessed Elizabeth, keeping the commandments of the Lord. We glorify the goodness of God made manifest in thee.

At Vespers

Stichera of the Righteous Elizabeth
(Tone 1)
("Joy of the ranks of heaven...")

When thou didst call the virgin who greeted thee / the Mother of they Lord, / thou didst behold in her virginal womb / Him, incarnate, Whose goings forth are from before time began. / Pray with her, O righteous Elizabeth, / that He save our souls.

"Blessed is the Fruit of the Virgin's womb, who filleth all things!", / thou didst exclaim, O all-blessed Elizabeth, / moved thus to say by the Spirit of God. / Wherefore, honoring thee in hymns, we magnify God Who is worshiped in Trinity.

That which was said by the Lord / became reality in the Virgin, / for she gave birth to Jesus Who saveth His people from their sins. / "He shall be the fulfillment of those things which were said to her," / thou didst exclaim, inspired by the Holy Spirit, O Elizabeth. / Wherefore, we crown thee with wreaths of praise, as is meet.

Stichera At Litya
(Tone 4)

Seeing Jesus, John cried out: "Behold the Lamb of God!", fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah. Thy son was the last of the prophets, O Elizabeth. Wherefore, the people call thee blessed, as is meet.

Jesus, Who is the Lord of lords and Master of masters, bowed His head beneath the right hand of thy son. Great is thy glory, O rightlaudable Elizabeth!

The voice of one crying in the wilderness denounced the boastful Pharisees, saying unto them: "O generation of vipers, bring forth fruits worthy of repentance!" And he worshiped the Master. Of such a son art thou the mother, O holy Elizabeth!

Glory...
Tone 4

Keeping the commandments of God, thou didst bring forth the fruit of living faith which dwelt within thee, O divinely wise Elizabeth. With what worthy hymns, with what worthy praises can we, the faithful, crown thee?

Now & Ever...
(Theotokian in the same tone)

Christ the Lord, my Creator and Deliverer, Who came forth from thy womb, O all-pure one, and roved Himself in me, hath freed Adam from the curse. Wherefore, like the angel do we unceasingly cry out to thee, O most pure one, who art truly the Mother of God and Virgin: "Rejoice! Rejoice, O Mistress, thou intercession, protection and salvation for our souls!"

At the Aposticha
(Tone 1)

Thou art worthy of many praises, O divinely wise Elizabeth, who art called righteous by the world of God, thou who walked in the commandments of the Lord and art moved by the mercy of God.

Stichos: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.

Walking in the commandments of the Lord, O most glorious Elizabeth, thou didst have unfeigned love for God and unfeigned love for thy neighbor. And, lo! The fruit of thy faith was made reality. Wherefore, holding festival, we call thee blessed.

Stichos: Blessed is the man who feareth the Lord; in His commandments shall he greatly rejoice.

An all-glorious fruit of the womb was given by the most compassionate God to thee, a woman barren and past childbearing: the preacher of repentance. Wherefore, calling thee blessed, we magnify the almighty mercy of God

Troparion of the Saints
Tone II

Celebrating the memory of Thy righteous ones, Zacharias and Elizabeth, O Lord, through them do we entreat Thee: Save Thou our souls!

At Matins

After the first chanting of the Psalter, this sedalion, in Tone IV: Spec. Mel.: "Joseph marvelled..."
Great is the love for mankind which the all-good God hath toward mortals, and which He showed forth upon thee, O Elizabeth, in that it was His will, in His ineffable goodness, that thou be with Zacharias. What thanksgiving is due to Thee, O Merciful One! What hymns can we, Thy sinful servants, offer to Thee, O Master?

After the second chanting of the Psalter, this sedalion, in tone 4; Spec Mel.: "Joseph marveled..."
Samuel was a most welcome gift to the barren Hannah, and unto thee, O righteous Elizabeth, was the namesake of grace bestowed most joyously. Wondrous is Thy mercy unto men, O God! Glory to Thy many compassions! Glory to Thy lovingkindness!

Megalynarion

We magnify you, O holy and righteous Zacharias and Elizabeth, and we honor your holy memory; for ye entreat Christ our God in our behalf.

After the Polyeleos, this sedalion, in Tone 4, Spec. Mel.: "Joseph marveled..."
Blossoming forth in the statues of God with the all-blessed Zacharias, O most lauded Elizabeth, offshoot of the daughters of Aaron, thou wast moved by the hand of God. Entreat the all-good Master, that we sinners may also offer the good fruit of living faith.

The Gospel according to Luke (Luke 1:5-25)
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

After Psalm 50, this sticheron in Tone 1
That which was said by the Lord became reality in the virgin, for she gave birth to Jesus Who saveth His people from their sins. "He shall be the fulfillment of those things which were said to her," thou didst exclaim, inspired by the Holy Spirit, O Elizabeth. Wherefore, we crown thee with wreaths of praise, as is meet.

Canon of the Righteous Elizabeth, in Tone VIII
Ode I

Irmos: To Him Who hath crushed battles with His arm, and let Israel across the Red Sea, let us chant, as to God our Deliverer: for gloriously has Thou been glorified!

Thou didst have true love for God, O right loving Elizabeth, preserving His commandments; for he truly loveth God who keepeth His commandments. Wherefore, we magnify thee, the beloved of God, with praises.

We who are saved by grace must please God with virtues, just as Elizabeth walked in the commandments of the Lord blamelessly, whom let us bless with hymns, as is meet.

O God Who dost accomplish all things, Thou didst manifest Thine almighty mercy in the blessed Elizabeth. We offer thee thanks for all Thy works.

Theotokian: giving birth to Isaac, Sarah rejoiced; and when thou, a Virgin, didst give birth to the Lord Jesus, it was fitting that thou rejoice yet more, O all-pure one.

Ode III

Irmos: My heart is established in the Lord; my horn is exalted in my God; my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies. I am glad in Thy salvation.

In the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit called thee and Zacharias righteous, O blessed Elizabeth, saying that ye were righteous in the sight of God. The Messiah is the truth for us from God, and therefore, by the Messiah wast thou justified. Who will not magnify thee with hymns of praise?

Not everyone who lieth is justified in God's sight; but thou was righteous, O ever-memorable Elizabeth. The Lord Jesus is sanctification for all. Let each of us praise thee as holy.

O God Who art wondrous in Thy saints, Thou wast wondrous also in the blessed Elizabeth. We offer unto Thee, the Most compassionate One, a hymn of thanksgiving.

Theotokian: The barren Sarah, giving birth in her old age, was blessed to be a mother. We are at a loss, O all-pure one, how to praise thee, Mother and virgin, as is meet.

Sedalion of the righteous Elizabeth, Tone 4
When the Messiah was already incarnate, we listened to thee, His first herald, when, with awe, thou didst say unto the divinely chosen Maiden who embraced thee: "Whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" Wherefore, praising thee, we cry aloud: Rejoice, thou mirror revealing the mysteries of God to us!

Ode IV

Irmos: With noetic eyes the Prophet Habbakuk foresaw Thy coming, O Lord; wherefore, he cried aloud: glory to Thy power! Glory to Thy condescension!

As the wife of Zacharias, thou didst walk blamelessly in all the commandments; but there were others, virgins, who possessed not the oil of the virtues. Better is thine appellation than their virginity. Let people of every age glorify thee!

Paul, betrothing the faithful to Christ, referred to the married as a pure virgin, saying: I have betrothed you a pure virgin to one Husband. How much more hath God joined to the wise virgins thee who has walked in all His commandments, o divinely wise Elizabeth. Wherefore, we praise thee as is meet.

Thou, O God, hast shown the blessed Zacharias and Elizabeth, who walked in the commandments of the Lord, to be a model of how to please Thee, like unto the pillar of fire and the cloud when Israel was journeying to the promised land. Ineffable is Thy love for mankind, O almighty Master!

Theotokian: The birth of Isaac removed the reproach of childnessness from his mother and magnified her with glory; and when the Holy One was born of thee, O all-pure virgin and Mother, He brought thee pristine glory. Let every mortal glorify thee!

Ode V

Irmos: Grant us peace, O Lord our God. O Lord our God, take us for Thy possession. O Lord, besides Thee we know no other; we call upon Thy name.

To him whom God, through His angel, spake in the prophecy of Malachi, saying: "Behold, I will send Mine angel before Thy face," didst thou, a barren woman, give birth, O Elizabeth. We crown thee with worthy praises.

The voice of God crying in the wilderness is born of thee, o most honored Elizabeth. Wherefore, who will not praise thee as the mouth of God?

As once from a barren rock Thou didst pour forth water for Thy people, O god, so from the barren Elizabeth Thou hast given the preacher of repentance. O almighty Master, most glorious are all Thy works!

Theotokian: Two sons, Joseph and Benjamin, did the barren Rachel bring forth as fruit; and she is honored for her goodly offspring. And thou, a virgin, gavest birth to Him Who is one in Hypostasis but two in essence. Ineffable is thy glory, O Mother of Emmanuel.

Ode VI

Irmos: Like the waters of the sea am I tossed about by the waves of life, O Thou Who lovest mankind. Wherefore, like Jonah I cry to Thee: Lead up my life from corruption, O compassionate Lord!

When John was in thy womb, O holy Elizabeth, seeing His Savior, he, the babe, did leap. Blessed is thy womb which made manifest the babe who recognized Jesus as his salvation.

Strengthened by the Holy Spirit against all desires, O all-blessed Elizabeth, thou didst name thy son John. Let everyone praise thee, the instrument of the Holy Spirit.

O God, Thou didst show forth Elizabeth's conceiving as an image of Thine own inconceivable birthgiving from the Virgin. Glory to Thy mighty wisdom!

Theotokian: When he was born of Rachel, Benjamin caused his own mother's death; but the Word Who was born of thee is the true life of all. Him do thou beseech, that we who place our trust in Him may have everlasting life.

Kontakion of Righteous Elizabeth
(Tone 4)

Like the full moon, thou didst receive the light of righteousness from the Messiah, the noetic Sun, O Elizabeth beloved of God, and with Zacharias didst walk in all the commandments of the Lord. Wherefore, blessing thee with worthy hymns, we magnify the Lord, the most compassionate Light, Who illumineth all.

Ode VII

Irmos: The chaldean furnace, kindled with fire, was bedewed by the Spirit through the presence of God; and the children chanted: Blessed art Thou, O God of our fathers!

O divinely wise Elizabeth, thou teachest us to give thanks unto God, saying of thy birthgiving: "thus hath the Lord dealt with me!" And therein thou wast a teacher instructed by God.

He whom the angel, within the sanctuary, told Zacharias to call John, thou didst thus name, instructed by God, when he was born of thee for all people. Thy tongue is like unto the angels', O ever-memorable Elizabeth.

As when God, making the heavens heavy with manna, let it fall upon His people in the wilderness, so hath He given us John, the herald of grace, through the blessed Elizabeth. Great is Thy mercy toward men, O God!

Theotokian: giving birth to Isaac, a prefiguration of Christ, Sarah said: "The Lord hath made laughter of me!" but do thou, O most lauded Mother and virgin, who gavest birth to Him Whom Isaac prefigured and yet hast remained virgin, rejoice yet more.

Ode VIII

Irmos: O Thou Who coverest Thy chambers with waters and settest the sands as a bound for the sea: Thee doth the sun hymn; Thee doth the moon glorify; and unto Thee doth all creation offer a hymn forever, as to the Creator of all!

As God said of His Church: "Thou art all-comely, My beloved, and there is no blemish in thee," so art thou also blameless, O righteous Elizabeth. In that the Lord Jesus is the sanctification of His faithful, we magnify thee as all-comely.

The people saw thee, who didst walk in all the commandments of the lord, freely justified by the grace of God,O right-blessed Elizabeth. Wherefore, it is meet to glorify the mercy of God in thee.

Elizabeth was the first proclaimer of the mystery wrought in Thee, O Jesus, when she said: "Blessed is the Fruit of the Virgin's womb. Who is Lord and God!" Behold the working of Thy wisdom! Glory to Thy love for mankind!

Theotokion: The birth of Samuel from his barren mother did away with the tears of her eyes and brought her joy; and the Lord born of thee is the cause of joy for the whole world. We magnify thee unceasingly with hymns, O virgin Mother.

Ode IX

Irmos: foreign to mothers is virginity, and strange is childbirth to virgins; yet both were accomplished in thee, O Theotokos. Wherefore, all we, the tribes of the world, unceasingly magnify thee.

Believing the Messiah Who had come to be thy Lord, and keeping the commandments of the Lord, thou didst please Him well, O Elizabeth. Wherefore, entreat the all-good Master for those who bear thy name and all who praise thee, that their souls may be saved.

He who keepeth the commandments of God hath God promised to love and appear to him; wherefore, thou art loved by God, O Elizabeth, who didst walk in His commandments. Entreat the All-good One in behalf of those who bear thy name, that they may love God and be loved by His lovingkindness.

Elizabeth, the kinswoman of Mary, gaveth birth, though barren and bereft of children. Thou didst magnify Thy mercy with her, O God, and every good work is from Thee. Glory to Thine ineffable compassions!

Theotokion: Sampson, shown from his youth to be strong, was the glory of his barren mother. And in Jesus Who was born of thee is all the fulness of the Godhead embodied. We magnify thee, who art more glorious than all the saints, O all-pure Virgin.

Exapostilarion of the Righteous Elizabeth
(Spec Melody: "The heaven with stars...")

Thou wast the glory of barren mothers, the model of virtues for sinners, O blessed Elizabeth, keeping the commandments of the Lord. We glorify the goodness of God made manifest in thee.

On the Praises, 4 stichera of the Righteous Elizabeth in Tone 1
The barren and childless Elizabeth didst Thou bless with fertility, O God, that Thou mayest reveal Thine almighty goodness. By Thy grace, have compassion upon us, who every day are withered by sins, that we may be a right fruitful tree, O Omnipotent One.

Glory... in Tone VI

The greatest born of women is named by eternal Wisdom and hath come forth from thee, a barren woman, O God-loving Elizabeth. Let the faithful rejoice in the ever-memorable one, magnifying our Benefactor!

Epistle: Hebrews 6:13-20
For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Gospel: Matthew 23:29-39
And Jesus said: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

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Added 11/2003
Edited 8/2004

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