Six months before his appearance in Nazareth to the All-holy Virgin Mary, the great Gabriel, the archangel of God, appeared to Zacharias the high priest in the Temple at Jerusalem. Before announcing the miraculous conception by the unwedded virgin, the archangel announced the miraculous conception by the childless old woman. Zacharias did not immediately believe the words of the herald of God, and thus his tongue was bound by dumbness and it remained thus until eight days after the birth of John. On that day the relatives of Zacharias and Elizabeth gathered for the young child’s circumcision and naming. When they asked the father what name he wished to give to his son, since he was mute he wrote on a tablet, “John.” At that moment his tongue was loosed and he began to speak. The home of Zacharias was on the heights between Bethlehem and Hebron. Throughout all Israel there was spread the news of the appearance of the angel of God to Zacharias, as well as that of his dumbness and the loosing of his tongue at the moment he wrote the name “John.” The news of this even reached Herod. Therefore, when Herod sent soldiers to slay the children in Bethlehem, he directed men to the hills, to the dwelling place of the family of Zacharias, to kill John also. But Elizabeth promptly hid the child. Enraged at this, King Herod sent his executioners to Zacharias in the Temple to slay him (for it happened that it was again Zacharias’s turn to serve in the Temple of Jerusalem). Zacharias was slain between the court and the temple and his blood coagulated and petrified on the paving stones and remained a perpetual witness against Herod. Elizabeth hid with the child in a cave, where she died soon after. The young child John remained alone in the wilderness under the care of God and His angels.
Source: St. Nikolai Velimirovic, The Prologue of Ohrid – Volume One.
O Prophet and Forerunner of the presence of Christ, we who fervently honor you cannot worthily praise you. For by your revered and glorious birth the barrenness of your mother and the muteness of your father were unbound, and the incarnation of the Son of God is proclaimed to the world.