Nativity of John the Baptist


No other prophet of the Old Testament is celebrated in the liturgical year other than John the Baptists. There is no feast day for Moses, or Elisha or Elijah or Isaiah. There are no prophets mentioned in the New Testament after John. In the New Testament the prophecy ends with John. The nativity of John and the nativity of Jesus too are curiously similar: Jesus born of a virgin, John of a barren elderly. Jesus’s annunciation is greeted with Mary’s Magnificat; the annunciation of John leaves Zechariah dumbfounded. It is only after John’s birth that Zachariah tongue is freed to proclaim his canticle to God. At the visitation John while still in Elizabeth’s womb, leaps for Joy at the arrival of Mary, pregnant with Jesus. The joy at the nativity of John the Baptist is expressed in the Benedictus, the canticle of Zechariah sung at John’s birth. It opens “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.” The savior Jesus the Christ is the reason John leapt for joy! This is the hope of the people of YHWH, and blessed be the Lord is a characteristic opening of Jewish prayer, it is a prayer of thanksgiving for the fulfillment of Israel’s promise of the Messiah, the redeemer of Israel: The promise of the throne of David fulfilled in Christ. The canticle opens both Jewish and Christian in character. It continues “As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who are from the beginning: Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us….” The canticle acknowledges the work of the prophets, the message of YHWH spoke of in the Old Testament. Zachariah’s song then turns to his own son John.” And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,” This is the mission of John the Baptist, to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus the Christ. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make way for the Lord! How fitting it is that the Liturgy of the Hours starts the day with Zachariah’s Benedictus and ends with Mary’s Magnificat. The song at the beginning of the day announces John’s role, a herald who prepares YHWHS people for the Lord; and the Magnificat, Mary’s song at the announcement of the arrival of that Lord, Jesus the Christ.

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