|Isaiah 49:1-6||Acts 13:22-26||Luke 1:57-66, 80|
Brief meditation on the Nativity of St John thre Baptist:
By the fourth century there was an almost universal celebration of John the Baptist in the liturgical calendars of the Churches. Many churches were dedicated to him. Among them was the baptismal chapel of the Lateran Basilica in Rome and eventually the basilica itself The eventual fixing of this date for the celebration of his birth seems to rest upon Gabriel's announcement to Mary (the Annunciation, March 25) that Elizabeth, John's mother, was already six months with child.
Inspired by the strict parallelism which Luke establishes between Jesus and the Baptist in the infancy narrative, the liturgy delights in celebrating two births: the birth of the Messiah at the winter nter solstice and the birth of his precursor at the summer solstice. This in itself speaks eloquently of John's importance.
His is a strange destiny. It is characterized by rigorous asceticism to which he joins an intense spiritual happiness. "He will never drink wine or strong drink" (Luke 1:15), 5), yet twice in his life he greets the Lord with joy: in his mother's womb, and, when, as an adult, he points out the Messiah. Between these two moments, he is the voice crying ng in n the desert.
Tradition sees the desert as the place where God speaks to the heart of his people but also as the dwelling place of evil. It is from this solitary place of spiritual combat, the desert bordering the Jordan, that John appears "with the spirit and the power of Elijah" (Luke 7:17). By his word of fire and his baptism with water, he must call the children of the covenant back to the Lord their God. John is not only the fiery preacher of judgement. He appears as the friend who leads the bride to the bridegroom and then withdraws. He relentlessly directs hearts toward Jesus. Then he seeks to decrease so that the other may increase. Thus is the servant conformed to his master