The Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. The name John in Hebrew means “The Lord is gracious.” John is the immediate precursor of Jesus, called the Baptist or the Baptizer. He was a prophet and ascetic who prepared the way for Jesus as the Messiah and baptized him in the Jordan River. This feast, dating from the 4th century, in both the East and West, came to be celebrated, in accord with Lk 1:36, six months before the Lord’s birth. Quoting Jn 3:30, where John says that Jesus must increase while he must decrease, Saint Augustine found this date near the summer solstice appro-priate, after the birth of John, as daylight begins to grow shorter, whereas after Jesus’ birth it begins to increase. In this society where many want to be gods, we the church, like John, must be willing to decrease while the light of our Lord must increase and shine.

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