January 3, 2019

Why the Prophet Malachi is Celebrated on January 3rd in the Church Calendar

By John Sanidopoulos

Having celebrated the Birth of the Lord on December 25th, and the Circumcision of the Lord eight days later on January 1st, the Church is now preparing us to celebrate on January 6th the Holy Theophany, when the Holy Trinity manifested themselves at the Baptism of our Lord at the Jordan River. To prepare us for this event, the Holy Prophet Malachi has been installed for commemoration on January 3rd. But why the Prophet Malachi?

The Prophet Malachi, who lived about 400 years before Christ, is considered the last of the so-called Minor Prophets, minor for the size of his Old Testament book and not his prophetic status. After him there was no prophet in Israel until the coming of the Forerunner and Baptist John. As the last Prophet and Book of the Old Testament, we are left through him two prophecies which tell us that the Lord Himself is coming to the people of Israel, and before He does so He will send a Messenger (or Angel) to prepare the way for Him. This Messenger is none other than Saint John the Forerunner, who baptized the Lord in the Jordan River.

In Malachi 3:1 we read the first prophecy of the coming of this Messenger:

"I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

The second prophecy is contained in the very last verses of the same book (4:5-6):

"Behold, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction."

In Luke 1:17 the Angel Gabriel tells us that this Prophet Elijah is none other than John the Baptist:

"And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

This is further clearly stated by our Lord in Matthew 11:13-14:

"For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come."

The Prophet Malachi, as the last of the Old Testament prophets before John the Forerunner, foretold the coming of the "Messenger" and "Prophet Elijah" who was to prepare the way for the manifestation of the Lord among the people of Israel, and for this reason the Church celebrates him on January 3rd, a few days before we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord on January 6th. It is a commemoration of preparation.