“And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” – Luke 1:76-77
Waiting. No one likes to wait, especially when what is hoped for is delayed for an extended amount of time. Elizabeth and Zechariah waited for a child, and were at a point in their lives where they needed to consider the possibility that it just wasn’t going to happen. The Jewish community of Zechariah’s time continued the waiting for the promised Messiah, that would restore their land to Israel, and deliver them from oppression. It was thought that, before the Messiah came, there would be a forerunner to announce the news, and help prepare the people. It is in this context that we read this canticle of Zechariah, or Benedictus.
The canticle is one of the two hinges in the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the Church. It is prayed every morning, as part of Lauds (morning prayer). The other hinge, the Canticle of Mary, or Magnificat, is prayed at Vespers (evening prayer). These set the tone for the day within the context of the salvific mission of God. The Canticle of Zechariah represents the Old Testament covenant which promised a Savior. The Canticle of Mary represents the New Covenant, which brings the Old to its completion.
That is why we read both Testaments in the canon of sacred scripture, as the Second Vatican Council fathers announced in Dei Verbum (16):
God, the inspirer and author of both Testaments, wisely arranged that the New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest in the New. (2) For, though Christ established the new covenant in His blood (see Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25), still the books of the Old Testament with all their parts, caught up into the proclamation of the Gospel, (3) acquire and show forth their full meaning in the New Testament (see Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27; Rom. 16:25-26; 2 Cor. 14:16) and in turn shed light on it and explain it.
A deliverer – the Messiah – is on the way, Zechariah announces, to show God’s people the way to return to Him.
May God bless you.