Rejoice, O
barren one, who had not given birth; for the behold you have conceived clearly
the one who is the dawn of eh Sun Who was about illuminate the whole universe,
blighted with sightlessness. Shout in joy, O Zachary, crying in favor, truly,
the one to be born is a Prophet of the High.
(Troparion, 4th tone)

Birth of John the Baptist, TINTORETTO,jpg.jpg

On the
Byzantine liturgical calendar, today is the feast of the Conception of Saint
John the Baptist. The Eastern Church, at least the Churches with a Greek
origin, keeps three conception feasts:  Our Lord (March 25), Our Lady
(December 9) and the Baptist (September 23). The Latin Church only keeps two. 

Calendar study will tell you that
only the Savior has a perfect 9-month gestation period; Our Lady is a day under
(September 8) and the Baptist, a day under (June 24). The liturgical calendar of
the Latin Church places the conception of Mary on December 8, the feast of the
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The theology for today’s feast is rooted in the biblical
narrative of Zachary and Elizabeth, a couple who had no children and therefore
in the eyes of the world plagued by divine disfavor. All of their lives Zachary
and Elizabeth begged God to send them a son.  Providence heard their prayer and in His plan and mercy for
all, ordained that the dawn of salvation would be effected by the birth of John
through the agency of the barren Elizabeth. The Church calls John the Prophet
and Forerunner of Jesus, the Savior of the world.

Other significant divinely merciful
births to barren women who are a significant part of the Divine Plan of Salvation are  Isaac son of Sarah and Samson born to the wife
of Manoah (Samson’s mother is not named in Scripture).