This reading on the birth of John the Baptist was taken from a sermon of St. Augustine of Hippo (Sermon 293, 1-3; PL 38, 1327-1328)

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist by Jacopo Pontormo

The Church observes the birth of John as in some way sacred; and you will not find any other of the great men of old whose birth we celebrate officially. We celebrate John’s, as we celebrate Christ’s. This point cannot be passed over in silence, and if I may not perhaps be able to explain it in the way that such an important matter deserves, it is still worth thinking about it a little more deeply and fruitfully than usual.

John is born of an old woman who is barren; Christ is born of a young woman who is a virgin. That John will be born is not believed, and his father is struck dumb; that Christ will be born is believed, and he is conceived by faith.

I have proposed some matters for inquiry, and listed in advance some things that need to be discussed. I have introduced these points even if we are not up to examining all the twists and turns of such a great mystery, either for lack of capacity or for lack of time. You will be taught much better by the one who speaks in you even when I am not here; the one about whom you think loving thoughts, the one whom you have taken into your hearts and whose temple you have become.

John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, The Law and the prophets were until John. So he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb. You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary’s arrival he leapt in his mother’s womb. Already he had been marked out there, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him. These are divine matters, and exceed the measure of human frailty. Finally, he is born, he receives a name, and his father’s tongue is loosed.

Zachary is struck dumb and loses his voice, until John, the Lord’s forerunner, is born and releases his voice for him. What does Zachary’s silence mean, but that prophecy was obscure and, before the proclamation of Christ, somehow concealed and shut up? It is released and opened up by his arrival, it becomes clear when the one who was being prophesied is about to come. The releasing of Zachary’s voice at the birth of John has the same significance as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ. If John were meant to proclaim himself, he would not be opening Zachary’s mouth. The tongue is released because a voice is being born – for when John was already heralding the Lord, he was asked, Who are you and he replied I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

John is the voice, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word. John is a voice for a time, but Christ is the eternal Word from the beginning.

Posted on Ave Maria
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Ave Maria Online Magazine
Extravagant displays of devotion to Mary gets curtailed as world culture emphasizes the rational, scientific and technological aspects of life. There seems to be no more time for the more affective expressions of religion.

  Then, after a while, people get fed up with the absolutely rational and logical culture, and rediscover religion and the affective part of the human soul and its needs.

  And Mary is one of those.

Pledge to pray the rosary

Love and support for Pope Francis
The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church's life and activity.

  Christ is the Church's Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the successor of the Apostle Peter.

  Yet Christ remains the center, not the Sucessor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the centre.

Pledge 3 Hail Marys for Pope Francis

A Million Roses for the World
A gift of love, faith and goodwill from the people of the Philippines. Pope Pius IX once said: “Give me an army praying a million rosaries a day and we will conquer the world.” We are not out to conquer the world…but to save it for God to whom it rightly belongs.

Browse our archives
%d bloggers like this: