The Angel Visits Zacharias

The Angel Visits Zacharias

Birth of John Baptist promised.

(The Gospel History, Section 5)

There was in the days of Herod, king of Judæa, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abijah: and he had a wife 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.

Now it came to pass, 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 enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the hour of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: because thy supplication 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 he shall drink no 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 unto the Lord their God. And he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him. 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 I was sent to speak unto thee, and to bring thee these good tidings. And behold, thou shalt be silent and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall come to pass, because thou believedst not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people were waiting for Zacharias, and they marvelled while he tarried 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: and he continued making signs unto them, and remained dumb. And it came to pass, when the days of his ministration were fulfilled, he departed unto his house.

And after these days Elisabeth his wife conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord done unto me in the days wherein he looked upon me, to take away my reproach among men.

The Angel Visits Zacharias

(The Saviour of the World, Vol I Book I Poem III)

An aged priest, within the temple courts,
In meditation watched the curling fumes—
His lot was to burn incense—and all the prayers
Of men he saw ascending; no, not all—
That prayer he prayed, and prayed again, for years,
He and his wife Elizabeth, had that
Indeed gone up to God?—A sudden gleam,
In that dim place, of light ineffable
Arrested him, and lo, an angel stood
At the right side of the altar:

“Fear not thou,”

The angelic word, for Zacharias trembled:
How had he dared to doubt? But not to chide
The visitant was sent: “Thy prayer is heard,”
(That very prayer of years ago he deemed
Had lost its way); “thy wife Elizabeth
Shall carry babe in gladness; nor to her
And thee alone this joy (not any pair
May hold their child for all their own: but this)—
Many shall rejoice at his birth, for he
A great one in the sight of God shall be,
Filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb.
Give him not juice of grape, nor any drink
To cloud his clear intelligence of good:
His people shall he turn to God with the cry,
‘Make ready, there, the highway for the King!’—
Whereat shall natural duties prick men’s hearts;
Fathers bethink them of a son denied,
Children, of fathers recklessly defied—
Unseemly matters for the King to see—
And, rough made plain, behold the King’s highway!
He goes before Messias to prepare,
As spake the prophets, a people for the Lord.”

So said the seraph: Woe to Doubting Heart!
No sudden generous impulse makes him sure—
Perchance, if he might see the wounds of Christ?
But lesser proof avails not, though it were
An angel fraught with promises should speak!
So, Zacharias: “How shall I know this thing?
I am an old man, and my wife is old;
Not for the aged are the joys of child-birth!”
To whom, austere, the seraph, grave rebuking:—
“I, Gabriel, who in the Presence stand,
Am sent by the Most High to thee with word
Of these glad tidings: be thou dumb, nor speak
Till all shall be fulfilled.”

So he went forth

Among the wondering people, making signs,
Whereby they knew an angel spake with him.
And, like an inlay in old cabinet,
His life a space of silence held, wherein
He spake with God, and was abash’d.

After these days Elizabeth conceived,
And for five moons did hide herself from men
And praise God alway, Who, of His dear grace,
Shame and reproach had taken from her face.

St. Luke i. 5-25