Thursday, June 23, 2016

Nativity of John the Baptist

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Today we celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist!

The church only celebrates three birthdays- Jesus, Mary (September 8) and today John the Baptist! According to St.  Augustine, John the Baptist was baptized in his mother's womb, and so was also born without original sin.

As a representative of the past, he is born of aged parents; as herald of the new, he is declared to be a prophet while still in his mother’s womb. For when yet unborn, he leapt in his mother’s womb at the arrival of blessed Mary. In that womb he had already been designated a prophet, even before he was born; it was revealed that he was to be Christ’s precursor, before they ever saw one another. These are divine happenings, going beyond the limits of our human fraility. Eventually he is born, he receives his name, his father’s tongue is loosened. See how these events reflect reality


It was the firm belief among the faithful that John was freed from original sin at the moment when his mother met the Blessed Virgin (Luke 1, 45). Saint Augustine mentioned this belief as a general tradition in the ancient Church. In any case, it is certain that he was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1, 15) and, therefore, born without original sin. Accordingly, the Church celebrates his natural birth by a festival of his "nativity," assigned exactly six months before the nativity of Christ, since John was six months older than the Lord. As soon as the Feast of Christmas was established on December 25 (in the fifth century) the date of the Baptist's birth was assigned to June 24.

Another interesting observation is that Jesus's birthday is right after the winter solstice when the days are getting longer. John the Baptist is born right after the summer solstice and days will start to shorten. Bringing to mind the bible verse John 3:30: 30 "He must become greater; I must become less.”

Ideas for celebration:
Bon fires are traditional in Ireland on the feast of John the Baptist.

For The Year and Our Children:

Since his birthday comes in the middle of summer, it is an ancient custom to celebrate it that night with a great bonfire. Granny Newland remembers such bonfires in Ireland, from which coals were always taken to lay in each of a man's fields. The significance of the bonfire was taken from Zachary's canticle, where he sang out in praise of John that he would "enlighten them that sat in darkness." A cook-out is inevitable with a bonfire; and although it's hard to think of any use for grasshoppers on the menu (which is too bad when they are so plentiful), a comb of honey would be fitting. There is an interesting connection between the bonfire and St. John as the last of the prophets of the Old Law. To celebrate the end of the Old Law, people used to burn in the bonfires all the things they had been trying to get rid of (carted off to the dump) all year. This is an idea for people who are short of fuel for bonfires.




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