Silence is golden. Zechariah learned that perforce during his nine months of silence that preceded the birth of his son, St John the Baptist. If the birth of Zechariah’s long-awaited son and the filling of the Holy Spirit gave exuberance to his song the Benedictus, I’d be inclined to attribute its depth to Zechariah’s long months of deep, silent reflection. The song is a glorious summary of the law and the prophets (as far as they went), and of Luke’s gospel: In fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant the Davidic king arrives, saves his people from the merciless hands of their enemies, pardoning their sins.
BLESSED be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited
and redeemed his people;
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, in the
house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy Prophets, which
have been since the world began;
That we should be saved from our enemies, and from
the hand of all that hate us.
To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers, and
to remember his holy covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather
Abraham, that he would give us;
That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies
might serve him without fear;
In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest:
for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people for the
remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the
day-spring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the
shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Zechariah saw that Israel did not need an abstract or isolated declaration of innocence or pardon. They did need pardon, but they needed more than pardon. They needed deliverance from (read: an executed judgment against) dreadful, merciless enemies — and they were getting it.