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Birth of St. John the Baptist – June 24

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist (or Birth of John the Baptist, or Nativity of the Forerunner) is a Christian feast daycelebrating the birth of John the Baptist, a prophet who foretold the coming of the Messiah in the person of Jesus and who baptized Jesus.

Christians have long interpreted the life of John the Baptist as a preparation for the coming ofJesus Christ, and the circumstances of his birth, as recorded in the New Testament, are miraculous. The sole biblical account of birth of John the Baptist comes from the Gospel of Luke. John’s parents, Zechariah or Zachary — a Jewish priest — and Elizabeth, were without children and both were beyond the age of child-bearing. During Zechariah’s rotation to serve in the Temple in Jerusalem, he was chosen by lot to offer incense at the Golden Altar in the Holy Place. The Archangel Gabriel appeared to him and announced that he and his wife would give birth to a child, and that they should name him John. However, because Zechariah did not believe the message of Gabriel, he was rendered speechless until the time of John’s birth; at that time, his relatives wanted to name the child after his father, and Zechariah wrote, “His name is John” and could speak (Luke 1:5-251:57-66). Following Zechariah’s obedience to the command of God, he was given the gift of prophecy, and foretold the future ministry of John (Luke 1:67-79).

At the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to inform her that she would conceive of the Holy Ghost Jesus, he also informed her that Elizabeth, her cousin, was already six months pregnant (Luke 1:36). Mary then journeyed to visit Elizabeth. Luke’s Gospel recounts that the baby “leapt” in Elizabeth’s womb at the greeting of Mary (Luke 1:44). This is interpreted by Christians as John’s first act of prophecy.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In both the scriptures and in the Church’s liturgy John the Baptizer is referred to as an angel, prophet, apostle, hermit and martyr, for these terms well describe his life and service. John, like the angels was sent from God to be the messenger of the Lord. His message was that of the prophets who came before him: repent for the messiah of God is at hand. Like the apostles who followed him, John pointed to Jesus and proclaimed him as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” He prepares for his ministry as a hermit in the desert, living a life of prayer, fasting and continence. And, like all those who dare to proclaim the truth, he suffered a martyr’s death in fidelity to the Word of God.

John, in fact, closely resembles the Lord Jesus in his birth, life and death. As Jesus was perfect, so John sought out, not only personal perfection, but also the perfect One, Jesus Christ.

The birth of John was announced by the Archangel Gabriel who would also announce Christ’s birth. His birth, like that of the Lord, was surrounded by improbability and wonder: for an aged couple, with no hope of offspring, the angel gives the joyful news of the birth of a son, John. While in the womb, John was sanctified for his mission of preaching repentance and pointing out the Messiah. Before their births Jesus and John encountered each other in the persons of their mothers. As Mary greeted Elizabeth, John (still in the womb) jumped for joy as he recognized the presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary. Thus John was born to grace before his human birth. Since he was to prepare the Lord’s way, it was only proper that he should be prepared by God’s grace for his prophetic service.

May the prayers of John the Baptizer be with us. Amen.

Courtesy of Opus Libani

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