St Elizabeth and the Nativity of St John the Baptist. 15th Century. (Hermitage St Petersburg). Photograph: Shakko (under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0).

The Patronal Saint of Gordon Chapel is St Elizabeth, wife of Zacharias and mother of John the Baptist.

Elisabeth was a descendant of Aaron the High Priest.  She and her husband Zacharias were “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6) but they were childless. While ministering in the Temple, Zacharias was visited by the Angel Gabriel:

Luke 1:13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.  14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

Zacharias doubted “whereby” he could know this since both he and his wife were very old. The angel identified himself as Gabriel and said he would be “dumb, and not able to speak” until the words were fulfilled, because he did not believe. When the days of his ministry were complete, he returned to his house.

Luke 1:24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

The angel Gabriel was then sent to Nazareth in Galilee to her “cousin” Mary then a virgin, espoused to Joseph, and informed her that she would conceive by the Holy Ghost and bring forth a son to be called Jesus. After she was also informed that her “cousin Elisabeth” had begun her sixth month of pregnancy, she travelled to “Hebron, in the hill country of Judah”.

Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed artthou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

Elizabeth and Zacharias are little heard of subsequently in the Gospels, unlike their son, John the Baptist.

St Elizabeth and Gordon Chapel

When Gordon Chapel was first consecrated in 1834 it was not dedicated to a patronal saint.  It remained one of the few charges within the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness without such a Saint.  Eventually, after much discussion, it was agreed that St Elizabeth was the most appropriate Patronal Saint for Gordon Chapel.  This not only remembers St Elizabeth herself but also reflects the part played by Elizabeth Duchess of Gordon in establishing the chapel in the first place.  The members of Gordon Chapel also felt strongly that it was important to have a female saint as it has been the women of Gordon Chapel who have saved and nurtured the congregation on a number of occasions during its history.