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Celebrating the Birth of the Forerunner, St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist Before Herod

Today is the feast day of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

On June 24th, in the Roman calendar, the church celebrates the birth of St. John the Baptist. The celebration of the birth of the Forerunner is one of the oldest feasts in the Church’s history, dating from the earliest days. St. John the Baptist has remained a beloved saint throughout the life of the Church, and many religious orders, institutions, churches, and shrines were established under his patronage. The Eastern Church especially venerates him and he is given a prominence in the Liturgy and Church art to a degree which is not seen in the West – an expression of Our Lord’s words “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there is none greater than John the Baptist.”

What little we know of the life of the Baptist and his mission is contained in the four gospels:

John’s father, Zachery, was a priest of the Jewish law, and John’s mother, Elizabeth was also of the house of Aaron. One day, Zachery received a vision from the angel Gabriel that his wife Elizabeth, who was called barren, would conceive a son to be named John. The angel told Zachery that John would “be great before the lord.” Zachery, amazed, asked for a sign to be given, and in response, the angel answered that Zachery would be unable to speak until the birth of the child. When Elizabeth gave birth, friends and family assumed the baby would be named Zachery, after his father. But Zachery took a tablet, and wrote on it “John is his name,” and immediately he recovered his voice and broke into the Benedictus, the great canticle of love and thanksgiving.

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