The Birth of St. John the Baptist
Saint Augustine of Hippo, a Doctor of the Church and
an Early Catholic Church Father gave a sermon about
the solemnity of the birth of St. John the Baptist.
St. John the Baptist is the only saint other than the
Blessed Mother whose birthday is celebrated by a special
feast. The feast of St. John the Baptist is celebrated
on June 24.
Saint Augustine discusses the differences and similarities
between St. John the Baptist and his cousin Jesus
Christ. He depicts St. John the Baptist as a transitional
figure between the Old and the New Testaments.
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
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.
St. John the Baptist Today
Today's Catholics celebrate the feast of St. John the
Baptist in prayer and veneration of the cousin of Jesus
Christ. They wear a St. John the Baptist medal or a
St. John the Baptist pendant in remembrance of this
saint who prepared the way for Jesus Christ.