24 June 2008

Fatherly Wisdom-Honoring John the Baptist

Bede (The Venerable) (673-735) gives this explanation for celebrating the Nativity of John the Baptist:
Quite rightly does the universal Church, which celebrates the many triumphs by which the holy martyrs gained entry into heaven, honor also the birth of Saint John the Baptist and his alone, apart from that of our Lord. We may be certain that this custom did not arise without the support of the gospel. On the contrary, we should treasure in our hearts the fact that as an angel appeared to the shepherds when our Lord was born and said: Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day a savior, who is Christ the Lord, so also an angel told Zechariah that John would be born, adding: You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. With good reason is the birth of each celebrated with joy and devotion, but in the one case joy is proclaimed to all peoples at the birth of Christ the Lord, the Savior of the world, the Son of almighty God, the Sun of Righteousness, while in the other case it is recounted that many will rejoice at the appearance of the Lord's forerunner, his mighty servant, a blazing and radiant lamp.

John went ahead in the spirit and power of Elijah to teach the Lord's people to be perfect, baptizing them with water so that they would be able to accept Christ when he appeared. Christ came after John in the spirit and power of God the Father to make it possible for them to be perfect, baptizing them with the Holy Spirit and with fire so that they would be able to see the face of the Father (Homily II, 20; quoted in For All the Saints, vol. 4, p. 1314, emphasis original).

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