Whenever two parishes merge, they never take one parish and move into another. One does not close and simply move into another. A priest explained this once. When two parishes become one they first both must close, and then they all begin as one. In a sense both must die, and then a new parish is reborn. It follows the steps of baptism, first a death and then life. This came to mind during the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist.
So much of Johns Nativity story mirrors Christ’s. Similar, yet also a definite contrast. With John comes the closing if a covenant, so that a new covenant might be born. Both are announced by an angel. With the Annunciation, Mary responds with the Magnificat. With Zachariah, he becomes mute. He is silenced until the herald of a New Testament is born. Then a Canticle. “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, He has come to His people to set them free…” In the birth of John, his name does not come from his father or grandfather, as was the tradition. The new tradition begins with a name given by an angel. Yohanan, John, means to quicken or make alive. John is to prepare a path for something new. Jesus.
Even in Elizabeth, making way for something new is apparent. Elizabeth and Zachariah are old, and Elizabeth is past her childbearing years. They are childless, and she is barren. The natural expectation is a dying, and the cultural connotation is one of sin. There is no expectation of the miraculous vibrancy that is about to begin. A sadness that concludes with a joyous hope. John joyously leaps in the womb of Elizabeth at the visitation. An omen of things to come. One must decrease, so another might increase. One closes, the other opens.