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February 8, 2018

Prophet Zechariah as a Model for our Lives

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Prophet Zechariah, whose name means "the Lord has remembered", is one of the so-called Twelve Lesser Prophets, the eleventh among them. Zechariah was the son of Berechiah, and Iddo was his grandfather. He lived in the sixth century before Christ, and was from a priestly tribe. During the period of the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity to their homeland, the presence of the Prophet Zechariah was a blessing. God sent him to help them, that is to give them courage, to support them, to comfort them, and to keep them firm in the faith of their fathers. They called him a preacher of hope. Together with his contemporary the Prophet Haggai he was a member of the Great Synagogue, which defined the canon of the Old Testament books.

The Prophet Zechariah, with the clearsightedness that distinguished him, understood that what would protect the people of God from being alienated from the surrounding foreign tribes and the foreign religions of the nations, and would keep them firm and steady in the faith of their fathers, was the reconstruction of the Temple. For this reason he encouraged them to do so, and despite the scanty economic means that the Temple had, with the grace of God and their personal zeal, it was built. It was completed, of course, after his death, but what matters is that this work began with his inspiration, his incitement and his guidance.

The book of the Prophet Zechariah consists of fourteen chapters and is divided into two sections. The first section contains chapters 1:1 to 8:23, and the second part includes chapters 9:1 to 14:21. It is one of the most difficult books of the Old Testament, due to its symbolism and visions. It contains visions and prophecies that refer to the reconstruction of the Temple, as well as eschatological prophecies. Two of his prophecies refer to events in the life of Christ, which have been fulfilled and are mentioned in the New Testament. The first prophecy refers to Christ's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, after the resurrection of Lazarus. He says: "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zech. 9:10). Secondly he speaks of the thirty pieces of silver, which was the price of the betrayal of Christ by Judas: "So they paid me thirty pieces of silver" (Zech. 12:12).

He reposed in peace in deep old age and was buried next to the tomb of the Prophet Haggai.

His life and conduct give us the opportunity to emphasize the following:

In order to build a single building, such as a church or a monastery, surely the material means is necessary, but most important is the blessing of God, which is granted through the Church. For whatever takes place with a blessing is completed sooner, and it is made firm. On the contrary, without a blessing there is no progress, even if one has the material means. After this, the builders need to have strong faith, true reverence, conscious zeal and great patience. If all of the above exist, then even if the material means is absent, in the end they will be found and it will be overwhelming. Otherwise, no matter how much someone tries, they will not accomplish something important, for as the sacred Psalmist says: "Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain" (Ps. 126/127:1).

Everything within the Church must be "decorous and orderly", with the fear of God and with respect to the Church and the ecclesiastical institutions. It is not possible for everyone to do what they want, they cannot be unseemly in the house of God. Where there is humility, respect and obedience to ecclesiastical institutions, there is the blessing of God and thus the hardest things can become simple, that is, they can take place in the most simple and perfect way.

Once, several years ago, in one of my visits to Mount Athos, I met a monk outside a monastery, where I was going to worship with a hermit monk, who came from the monastery. After we greeted each other, I asked him how these huge buildings were made at Mount Athos, and how they have been decorated with such beautiful frescoes, since at that time they did not have the ability to afford what is currently economically possible, nor did they have today's technology. And he answered me:

"The old fathers had faith, true faith, a faith that could move mountains, and all that you see is a work of faith. And where there is faith, humility and reverence, there is God. And 'wherever God who is above nature resides, that which is above nature is accomplished according to nature.' We younger ones do not have this faith that the older fathers had, and that is why we cannot do many things, despite having much material means, and despite the fact that modern technology offers us greater opportunities."

Of course, this issue is explained by many by the fact that formerly the building and preservation of the monasteries of Mount Athos was aided by the emperors of the Christian Roman Empire, so-called Byzantium, who provided significant sums for this purpose. This, of course, is not denied by anyone, since it is a historical reality, and they bear witness to this in their written texts, as well as the inscriptions that are in their precious offerings. One, however, does not reject the other. The emperors, since they were reverent and receptive to the illumination of divine grace, they became the supporters of the monks in their glorious work. Thus, one complements the other. That is, in one way or another, these works are the fruit of faith, love, reverence and divine illumination.

Therefore, where there is faith, reverence, humility, and conscious zeal, God resides. And 'wherever God who is above nature resides, that which is above nature is accomplished according to nature.'

Source: Ekklesiastika Paremvasi, Προφήτης Ζαχαρίας, February 2017. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.