Saint Zachary and Saint Elizabeth were the father and the mother of Saint John the Baptist, the last and the greatest of the prophets and the precursor of Our Lord. Saint Zachary’s story is beautifully told in the first chapter of Saint Luke. Saint Zachary spoke one of the three canticles of the New Testament, which is known as the Benedictus. It is recited in the prayers of priests as part of their liturgical worship. Saint Zachary was inspired by God through an angel to give Saint John the Baptist his name. Saint Zachary was martyred in the Temple of Jerusalem by the Jews. The martyrs of the Old Testament run from A to Z, from Abel, the son of Adam and the first martyr that ever was, to Zachary, the father of John the Baptist and the last martyr of the Old Testament.
Saint Elizabeth was the cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was to her that Mary went in haste after she had conceived her Child, and after she learned that Elizabeth had conceived hers. The second phrase in the Hail Mary, “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” was given us by Saint Elizabeth. And so, her memory is beautifully kept in the Rosary, where this phrase is mentioned fifty-three times. Saint Elizabeth’s first greeting to Our Lady, when she saw her standing in her doorway was: “Whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me!” This was a sheer and unequivocal way of proclaiming Mary, her own cousin, to be the Mother of God.
With Elizabeth’s as the central greeting, the Angel Gabriel’s as the first and that of the Council of Ephesus as the last, this is the full Hail Mary:
Hail, Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.