Elizabeth (God is an oath—Ex., vi, 23), Zachary’s wife and John the Baptist’s mother, was “of the daughters of Aaron” (Luke, i, 5), and, at the same time, Mary’s kinswoman (Luke, i, 36), although what their actual relationship was, is unknown. St. Hippolytus (in Niceph. Call., Hist. Eccles., II, iii) explains that Sobe and Anna their mothers were sisters, and that Sobe had married a “son of Levi”. Whether this indication, probably gathered from some apocryphal writings, and later on adopted by the compilers of the Greek Menologium, is correct, cannot be ascertained. Elizabeth, like Zachary, was “just before God, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame” (Luke, i, 6). She had been deprived, however, of the blessings of motherhood until, at an advanced age, a son was promised her by the Angel Gabriel (Luke, i, 8-20). When, five months later, Elizabeth was visited in her home by the Virgin Mary, not only was her son sanctified in her womb, but she herself was enlightened from on high to salute her cousin as “the mother of my Lord” (Luke, i, 43). According to some modern critics, we should even attribute to her the canticle “Magnificat“. After the birth and circumcision of John the Baptist, the Gospels do not mention Elizabeth any more. Her feast is celebrated on September 8 by the Greeks, and November 5 in the Latin Church.
CHARLES L. SOUVAY