Zacharias Writes Down the Name of his Son, 
Painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio(1449-1494),
Painted between 1486-90,
Fresco on chapel wall,
© Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Zacharias Writes Down the Name of his Son, 
Painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio(1449-1494),
Painted between 1486-90,
Fresco on chapel wall,
© Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Gospel of 24 December 2019

The Song of Zechariah

Luke 1:67-79

John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel

for he has visited his people, he has come to their rescue

and he has raised up for us a power for salvation

in the House of his servant David,

even as he proclaimed,

by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times,

that he would save us from our enemies

and from the hands of all who hate us.

Thus he shows mercy to our ancestors,

thus he remembers his holy covenant

the oath he swore

to our father Abraham

that he would grant us, free from fear,

to be delivered from the hands of our enemies,

to serve him in holiness and virtue

in his presence, all our days.

And you, little child,

you shall be called Prophet of the Most High,

for you will go before the Lord

to prepare the way for him,

to give his people knowledge of salvation

through the forgiveness of their sins;

this by the tender mercy of our God

who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us,

to give light to those who live

in darkness and the shadow of death

and to guide our feet

into the way of peace.’

Reflection on the Chapel Fresco

Many of you will be celebrating Christmas Eve tonight. Enjoy the celebrations! Our Gospel reading of today is the Song of Zechariah. It was the song of thanksgiving uttered by Zechariah on the occasion of the circumcision of his son. The song or canticle received its name ‘Benedictus’ from its first words in Latin: Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel; “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel

The whole canticle consists of two main parts: the first part (verses 68-75) is a song of thanksgiving for the realisation of the Messianic hopes of the Jewish nation; the second part (verses 76-79) is an address by Zechariah to his very own son, John, who was to take an important a part in God’s plans for Redemption; the prophecy that he was to "go before the Lord to prepare the way for Him”. We sing this canticle/song every morning at seminary during early morning Lauds. This is the Office of daybreak and therefore its symbolism is of Christ's Resurrection. According to Dom Fernand Cabrol "Lauds remains the true morning prayer, which hails in the rising sun, the image of Christ triumphant—consecrates to Him the opening day”… 

The illustration we are showing is a detail taken from a painted fresco at the Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. The bathed and wrapped up baby John the Baptist is being presented by a young maid to his old father, Zechariah, who is forced to write down the name of his son. Older men are leaning forward in order to read the name, they are curious.

Beautiful words are spoken in this Song of Zechariah… When God speaks, he speaks beautiful words…!

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