The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

(from the Liturgical Year, 1904)

The Voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord; behold thy God (Is. xl. 3-9)!" Oh! in this world of ours grown now so cold, who can understand earth's transports, at hearing these glad tidings so long expected? The promised God was not yet manifested; but already have the heavens bowed down (Ps. xvii. 10), to make way for His passage. No longer was He "the One Who is to come," He for whom our fathers, the illustrious saints of the prophetic age ceaselessly called, in their indomitable hope. Still hidden, indeed, but already in our midst, He was resting beneath that virginal cloud compared with which, the heavenly purity of Thrones and Cherubim wax dim; yea, the united fires of burning Seraphim grow faint, in presence of the single love wherewith she alone encompasses Him in her human heart, she that lowly daughter of Adam whom He had chosen for His mother. Our accursed earth, made suddenly more blessed far than yonder heaven so long inexorably closed to suppliant prayer, awaited only that the august mystery should be revealed; the hour was come for earth to join her canticles to that eternal and divine praise, which henceforth was ever rising from her depths, and which being itself no other than the Word Himself, would celebrate God condignly. But beneath the veil of humility where His divinity, even after as well as before his birth, must still continue to hide itself from men, who may discover the Emmanuel? who, having recognized him in His merciful abasements, may succeed in making him accepted by a world lost in pride? who may cry, pointing out the Carpenter's Son (St. Matth. xiii. 55), in the midst of the crowd: Behold Him Whom your fathers have so wistfully awaited!

For such is the order decreed from on high, in the manifestation of the Messias. Conformably to the Ways of men, the God-Man would not intrude Himself into public life; He would await, for the inauguration of His divine ministry, some man who having preceded him in a similar career, would be hereby sufficiently accredited, to introduce Him to the people.

Sublime part for a creature to play, to stand guarantee for his God, witness for the Word! The exalted dignity of him who was to fill such a position, had been notified, as had that of the Messias, long before his birth. In the solemn liturgy of the Age of types, the Levite choir, reminding the Most High of the meekness of David and of the promise made to him of a glorious heir, hailed from afar the mysterious lamp prepared by God for His Christ (Ps. cxxxi. 17) Not that, to give light to His steps, Christ should stand in need of external help: He, the Splendour of the Father, had only to appear in these dark regions of ours, to fill them with the effulgence of the very heavens; but so many false glimmerings had deceived mankind, during the night of these ages of expectation, that had the true Light arisen on a sudden, it would not have been understood, or would have but blinded eyes now become well nigh powerless, by reason of protracted darkness, to endure its brilliancy. Eternal Wisdom therefore decreed that just as the rising sun is announced by the morning-star, and prepares his coming by the gently tempered brilliancy of aurora; so Christ, who is Light should be preceded here below, by a star, His precursor; and his approach be signalized by the luminous rays which He himself, (though still invisible) would shed around this faithful herald of His coming. When, in by-gone days, the Most-High vouchsafed to light up, before the eyes of his prophets, the distant future, that radiant flash which for an instant shot across the heavens of the old covenant, melted away in the deep night, and ushered not in, as yet, the longed-for dawn. The "morning-star" of which the psalmist sings, shall know naught of defeat: declaring unto night that all is now over with her, he will dim his own fires only in the triumphant splendour of the Sun of Justice. Even as aurora melts into day, so will he confound with Light increased, his own radiance; being of himself, like every creature, nothingness and darkness, he will so reflect the brilliancy of the Messias shining immediately upon him, that many will mistake him even for the very Christ (St. Luke, iii. 15).

The mysterious conformity of Christ and His Precursor, the incomparable proximity which unites one to the other, are to be found many times marked down in the sacred scriptures. If Christ is the Word, eternally uttered by the Father, he is to be the Voice bearing this divine utterance whithersoever it is to reach; Isaias already hears the desert echoing with these accents, till now unknown; and the prince of prophets expresses his joy, with all the enthusiasm of a soul already beholding itself in the very presence of its Lord and God (St. Luke, iii. 15). The Christ is the Angel of the Covenant; but in the very same text wherein the Holy Ghost gives Him this title, for us so full of hope, there appears likewise bearing the same name of angel, the inseparable messenger, the faithful ambassador, to whom the earth is indebted for her coming to know the Spouse: Behold, I send My angel, and he shall prepare the way before My face. And presently the Lord Whom ye seek, and the Angel of the testament whom you desire, shall come to His Temple; behold he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts (Malach. iii. 1). And putting an end to the prophetic ministry, of which he is the last representative, Malachias terminates his own oracles by the words which we have heard Gabriel addressing to Zachary, when he makes known to him the approaching birth of the Precursor (Ibid. iv. 5-6).

The presence of Gabriel, on this occasion, of itself shows with what intimacy with the Son of God, this child then promised shall be favoured; for the very same Prince of the heavenly hosts, came again, soon afterwards, to announce the Emmanuel. Countless are the faithful messengers that press around the throne of the Holy Trinity, and the choice of these august ambassadors usually varies, according to the dignity of the instructions, to be transmitted to earth by the Most High. Nevertheless, it was fitting that the same archangel charged with concluding the sacred Nuptials of the Word with the Human Nature, should likewise prelude this great mission by preparing the coming of him whom the eternal decrees had designated as the Friend of the Bridegroom (St. John, iii. 29). Six months later, on his deputation to Mary, he strengthens his divine message, by revealing to that purest of Virgins, the prodigy, which had by then, already given a son to the sterile Elizabeth; this being the first step of the Almighty towards a still greater marvel. John is not yet born; but without longer delay, his career is begun: he is employed to attest the truth of the angels promises. How ineffable this guarantee of a child hidden as yet in his mother's womb, but already brought forward as God's witness, in that sublime negotiation which at that moment is holding heaven and earth in suspense! Illumined from on high, Mary receives the testimony and hesitates no longer. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, says she to the archangel, be it done unto me, according to thy word (St. Luke, i).

Gabriel has retired, bearing away with him the divine secret which he has not been commissioned to reveal to the rest of the world. Neither will the most prudent Virgin herself tell it; even Joseph, her virginal Spouse, is to receive no communication of the mystery from her lips. Yet fear not; the woeful sterility beneath which earth has been so long groaning, is not to be followed by an ignorance more sorrow-stricken still, now that it has yielded its fruit (Ps. lxxxiv. 13). There is one from whom Emmanuel will have no secret, nor reserve; it were fitting to reveal the marvel unto him. Scarce has the Spouse taken possession of the sanctuary all spotless, wherein the nine months of his first abiding amongst men, must run their course, yea, scarce has the Word been made Flesh, than Our Lady, inwardly taught what is her Son's desire, arising, makes all haste to speed into the hill-country of Judea (St. Luke, i. 39). The voice of my Beloved! Behold he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills (Cantic. ii. 8). His first visit is to the "Friend of the Bridegroom," the first out-pour of His graces is to John. A distinct feast will allow us to Honor in a special manner, the precious day on which the divine Child, sanctifying his Precursor, reveals himself to John, by the voice of Mary; the day on which Our Lady, manifested by John, leaping within the womb of his mother, proclaims at last the wondrous things operated within her, by the Almighty, according to the merciful promise which he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever (St. Luke, i. 55).

But the time is come, when the good tidings are to spread, from children and mothers, through all the adjacent country, until at length they reach the whole world. John is about to be born, and, whilst still himself unable to speak, he is to loosen his father's tongue. He is to put an end to that dumbness, with which the aged priest, a type of the old law, had been struck by the angel; and Zachary, himself filled with the Holy Ghost, is about to publish in a new canticle, the blessed visit of the Lord God of Israel. (Ibid. i. 68).

The hymn which follows, furnishes the Church with a beautiful formula of prayer and praise. There are few pieces so famous as this, in the holy liturgy. Its composition is attributed to Paul the Deacon, a monk of Monte Cassino, in the eighth century; and the story attached to it, is particularly touching. Honoured with that sacred order the very title of which remains through the course of ages inseparably linked with his name, Paul Warnefrid, the friend of Charlemagne and the historian of the Lombards, was on a certain occasion, deputed to bless the paschal candle, the triumphal appearance whereof, yearly announces to Holy Church, the Resurrection of the Spouse. Now it happened, that whilst he was preparing himself for this function, the most solemn of those reserved to the Levites of the New Testament, he suddenly lost his voice, until then clear and sonorous, so that, he was powerless to sound forth the glad notes of the Exsultet. In this extremity, Paul recollected himself; and turning to Saint John, patron at once of the Lombard nation and of that Church built by Saint Benedict at the top of the holy mount, he invoked him whose birth had put a stop to the dumbness of his own father, and who still preserves his power of restoring to " vocal chords their lost suppleness." The son of Zachary heard his devout client. Such was the origin of the harmonious strophes which now form the three hymns proper to this feast.

What is still better known, is the importance which the first of these strophes has acquired in the history of Gregorian chant and of music, The primitive air to which the hymn of Paul the Deacon was sung possessed this peculiarity, namely, that the initial syllable of each hemistich rose just one degree higher than the preceding, in the scale of sounds; thus was obtained, on bringing them together, the series of fundamental notes which form the basis of our present gamut. The custom was afterwards introduced of giving to the notes themselves, the names of these syllables: Ut, Be, Mi, Fa, Sol, La. Guido of Arezzo, in his method of teaching, originated this custom; and by completing it with the introduction of the regular lines of the musical scale, he was the cause of an immense stride being made in the science of sacred music, until then so laborious to render, and so tedious to acquire. He thus acknowledged that the divine Precursor, the Voice whose accents reveal to the world the harmony of the eternal canticle, ought to have the honour of having attached to his name the organization of earth's melodies.

Hymn: Ut queant laxis
(Music now playing on this webpage)

O for thy spirit, holy John, to chasten Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen; So by thy children might thy deeds of wonder Meetly be chanted.

Lo! a swift herald, from the skies descending, Bears to thy father promise of thy greatness; How he shall name thee, what thy future story, Duly revealing.

Scarcely believing message so transcendent, Him for season power of speech forsaketh, Till, at thy wondrous birth, again returneth Voice to the voiceless.

Thou, in thy mother's womb all darkly cradled, Knewest thy Monarch, biding in His chamber, Whence the two parents, through their children's merits, Mysteries uttered.

Praise to the Father, to the Son begotten, And to the Spirit, equal power possessing, One God whose glory, through the lapse of ages, Ever resoundeth.

At the Magnificat, let us recognize the part which our Saint had in this ineffable effusion of the Virgin Mother's sentiments, already alluded to, in the fourth strophe of the preceding hymn. These two, the Magnificat and Benedictus, our evening and morning canticles, are closely linked to the name of Saint John ; for, by his mystic "leaping for joy," and by his hallowed birth, he was the main-spring of both.

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Zachary being come into the Temple of the Lord, there appeared unto him the Angel Gabriel standing on the right side of the altar of incense.


My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid: for, behold from henceforth all generations shall call me Blessed. Because He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His name. And His mercy is from gene ration unto generation, to them that fear him. He hath showed might in His arm He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

Let us pray:

O God, Who hast made this day glorious unto us on account of the Nativity of blessed John grant to thy people the grace of spiritual joys and direct the souls of all the Faithful into the way of eternal salvation, Through our Lord &c.

Another festival is yet to come, at the end of August, calling for our renewed homage to the son of Zachary and Elizabeth; the feast, that is to say, of his glorious martyrdom. But, "venerable" as it has every right to be in our eyes, (so the Church expresses herself on that day, [Collecta diei.]) its splendour is not to be compared with that of this present festival. The reason is, because this day relates less to John himself, than to Jesus Whom he is announcing; whereas the feast of the Decollation, though more personal to our Saint, has not in the divine plan that same importance which his Birth had, inasmuch as it preludes that of the Son of God.

There hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist, are the words to be spoken by the Man-God of His Precursor (St. Matth. xi. 11); and already has Gabriel, when announcing both of them, declared the same thing of each, that he shall be great (St. Luke, i. 15-32). But the greatness of Jesus is that He shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the greatness of John is that he shall go before Him (Ibid). The name of John brought down from heaven, like that of his Master, proclaims the grace which Jesus, by saving mankind, is to bring to the world (St. Luke, i. 13-.31). Jesus Who cometh from above in person, is above all, it is He and He alone Whom all mankind is expecting; John who is of earth, on the contrary, hath nothing but what he hath received; but he hath received to be the friend of the Bridegroom (St. John iii. 27-31), his usher; so that the Bridegroom cometh not to the Bride, but by him (Ibid. i. 7).

Yea, the Bride even cannot come to know herself, nor to prepare herself for the sacred nuptials, but by him: his preaching awakens her, in the wilderness (Cantic. viii. 5); he adorns her with the charms of penitence and all virtues; his hand, in the one baptism, at last unites her to Christ beneath the waters. Sublime moment! in which, raised far above all men and angels, John, in the midst of the Holy Trinity (Johannes totius medius Trinitatis. Petr. Dam. Sermo 23), as it were, in virtue of an authority that is his, invests the Second Person Incarnate with a new title; the Father and the Holy Ghost acting the while, in concert with him! But presently, coming down from those lofty heights, more than human, to which his mission had raised him, he is fain to disappear altogether: the Bride is become the Bridegroom's own; the joy therefore of John is full, his work is done; he has now but to efface himself and to decrease (St. John. iii. 29-30). To Jesus here manifested (Ibid. 1-31), it henceforth alone belongs to appear and to increase. Thus too, the day-star, from the feast of John's Nativity when he beams his rays upon us in all his splendour, will begin to decline from the heights of his solstice, towards the horizon; whereas Christmas will give him signal to return, to resume that upward movement which progressively restores all his fiery effulgence.

Verily, Jesus alone is Light, the Light without which earth would remain dead; and John is but the man sent from God, without whom the Light would have remained unknown (St. John, i. 4-10). But Jesus being inseparable from John, even as day is from aurora, it is by no means astonishing that earth's gladness at John's birth should partake of something of that excited by the coming of our Redeemer. Up to the fifteenth century, the Latin Church, together with the Greeks who still continue the custom, celebrated, in the month of September, a feast called the conception of the Precursor: not that his conception was in itself holy, but because it announced the beginning of mysteries. Just in the same way, the Nativity of Saint John Baptist indeed made holy, is celebrated with so much pomp, merely because it seems to enfold within itself the Nativity of Christ, our Redeemer. It is as it were Midsummer's "Christmas Day." From the very onset, God and His Church brought about, with most delicate care, many such parallel resemblances and dependences between these two solemnities. These we are now about to study.

God, Who in His Providence, seeks in all things, the glorification of His Word made Flesh, estimates men and centuries, by the measure of testimony they render to Christ; and this is why John is so great. For, Him whom the Prophets announced as about to come, whom the Apostles preached as already come, John, at once prophet and apostle, pointed out with his finger, exclaiming "Behold, this is He!" John, being then the witness by excellence (Ibid. 7), it is fitting that he should open that glorious period, during which for three centuries, the Church was to render to her Spouse that testimony of blood, whereby the Martyrs, after the Prophets and Apostles, whereon she is built up (Eph. ii. 20), hold the first claim to her gratitude. Just as Eternal Wisdom had decreed that the tenth and last great struggle of that epoch, should be forever linked with the Birthday of the Son of God whose triumph it secured, by the memory of the Martyrs of Nicomedia on the 25th of December, 303; so likewise does John's birthday mark the beginning of the first of those giant contests. For, the 24th of June, in the Roman Martyrology, is sacred likewise to the memory of those soldiers of Christ, who first entered upon the arena opened to them by pagan Rome, in the year 64. After the proclamation of the Nativity of the Precursor, the Church's record runs thus: "At Rome the memory of many holy Martyrs who under the Emperor Nero being calumniously accused of setting fire to the city, were at the command of the same, most cruelly put to death by divers torments; some of whom were sown up in beasts' skins and so exposed to be torn by dogs; others crucified; others set on fire, so that at the decline of day, they might serve as torches to light up the night. All these were disciples of the Apostles; and first fruits of the Martyrs offered to the Lord by the Roman Church, the fertile field of Martyrs, even before the death of the "Apostles (Martyrol. Rom. ad diem 24 Junii. Octavo Kalendas Julii)."

The solemnity of the 24th of June, therefore, throws a double light on the early days of Christianity. There never were even then, days evil enough for the Church to belie the prediction of the Angel, that many should rejoice in the birth of John (St. Luke, i. 14); together with joy, his word, his example, his intercession, brought courage to the Martyrs. After the triumph won by the Son of God over pagan negation; when to the testimony of blood succeeded that of confession by works and praise, John maintained his part as Precursor of Christ in souls. Guide of monks, he conducts them far from the world, and fortifies them in the combats of the desert; Friend of the Bridegroom, he continues to form the Bride, by preparing unto the Lord a perfect people (St. Luke, i. 17).

In the divers states and degrees of the Christian life, his ever needful and beneficent influence makes itself felt. At the beginning of the fourth Gospel, in the most dogmatic passage of the New Testament, not by mere accident, is John brought forward, even as heretofore at Jordan, as one closely united with the operations of the Adorable Trinity, in the universal economy of the Divine Incarnation: There was a man sent from God whose name was John, saith the Holy Ghost; he came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, That All Might Believe THROUGH HIM (St. John, 8. 6-7). "Precursor at his birth, Precursor at his death, St. John still continues," says St. Ambrose, "to march in front, before the Lord. More perhaps than we are aware of, may his mysterious action be telling on this present life of ours. When we begin to believe in Christ, there comes forth virtue, as it were, from St. John, drawing us after him: he inclines the steps of the soul towards faith; he rectifies the crooked ways of life, making straight the road of our earthly pilgrimage, lest we stray into the rugged wilds of error; he contrives so, that all our valleys be filled with the fruits of virtue, and that every elevation be brought low before the Lord (Ambr. in luc. i 38)."

But if the Precursor maintains his part in each progressive movement of faith which brings souls nearer to Christ, he intervenes still more markedly in each baptism conferred, whereby the Bride gains increase. The baptistry is especially consecrated to him. It is true, the baptism which he gave to the crowds pressing day by day, on Jordan's banks, had never power such as Christian baptism possesses; but when he plunged the Man-God beneath the waters, they were endowed with a virtue of fecundity emanating directly from Christ, whereby they would be empowered until the end of time to complete, by the accession of new members, the Body of Holy Church united to Christ.

The faith of our fathers never ignored the great benefits for which both individuals and nations are indebted to Saint John. So many neophytes received his name in baptism, so efficacious was the aid afforded by him in conducting his clients to sanctity, that there is not a day in the Calendar, on which there may not be honoured the heavenly birthday of one or other so named (Annus Johannis, auctore Johanne N. [Pragae, 1664]). Amongst nations, the Lombards formerly claimed Saint John as Patron, and French Canada does the same now-a-days. But whether in East or West, who could count the countries, towns, religious families, abbeys, and churches placed under this same powerful patronage: from the temple which, under Theodosius, replaced that of the ancient Serapis in Alexandria with its famous mysteries, to the sanctuary raised upon the ruins of the altar of Apollo, on the summit of Monte Cassino, by the Patriarch of monks; from the fifteen churches which Byzantium, the new Rome, consecrated within her walls in honour of the Precursor, to the august Basilica of Lateran, well worthy of its epithet, the golden Basilica, and which in the Capital of Christendom remains for ever Mother and Mistress of all churches, not alone of the City, but of the whole world! Dedicated at first to our Saviour, this latter Basilica added at an early date another title which seems inseparable from this sacred name, that of the Friend of the Bridegroom. Saint John the Evangelist, also a " friend of Jesus," whose precious death is placed by one tradition on the Twenty-fourth day of June, has likewise had his name added to the other two borne by this Basilica; but all the same, it is none the less certain, that common practice is in keeping with ancient documents, in referring, as it does, more especially to the Precursor, the title of Saint John Lateran, whereby the patriarchal Basilica of the Roman Pontiffs is always designated in these days.

" Fitting it was," says Saint Peter Damian, "that the authority of the Bride should subscribe to the judgment of the Bridegroom, and that this latter should see his greatest Friend raised in glory there, where she is enthroned as queen. A remarkable choice is this, to be sure, whereby John is given the primacy, in the very city that is consecrated by the glorious death of the two lights of the world. Peter from his cross, Paul beneath the blade, both behold the first place held by another; Rome is clad in the purple of innumerable martyrs, and yet all her honours go straight to the blessed Precursor, "Everywhere John is the greatest (Peter Damian Sermon 23)!"

On this day, therefore, let us too imitate Mother Church; let us avoid that obliviousness which bespeaks ingratitude; let us hail, with thanksgiving and heartfelt gladness, the arrival of him who promises our Saviour unto us. Yea, already Christmas is announced.

To the Office of Lauds, on this day, a special importance is to be attached, because the Canticle Benedictus, which is sung during Lauds all the year round, is the very expression itself of the sentiments inspired by the Holy Ghost to the father of Saint John the Baptist, on the occasion of that Birthday which gave joy both to God and man.

(Zachary writes down the name of John)

Canticle of Zachary

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: because He hath visited and wrought the redemption of His people.

And hath raised up a horn of salvation to us, in the house of David His servant.

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.

To perform mercy to our fathers, and to remember His holy testament.

The oath which He swore to Abraham, our father; that He would grant to us,

That being delivered from the hand of our enemies we may serve him without fear,

In holiness and justice before Him, all our days.

And thou child, Precursor of the Emmanuel, shalt be called the Prophet of the Most High: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, to prepare His ways.

To give unto His people the knowledge of salvation, unto the remission of their sins.

Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us:

To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death; to direct our feet in the way of peace.


Precursor of the Messias, we share in the joy which thy birth brought to the world. This birth of thine announced that of the Son of God. Now, each year, our Emmanuel assumes anew His life in the Church and in souls; and in our day, just as it was eighteen hundred years ago, He wills that this birth of His shall not take place without thy preparing the way, now as then, for that nativity whereby our Saviour is given to each one of us. Scarce has the sacred cycle completed the series of mysteries whereby the glorification of the Man-God is consummated and the Church is founded, than Christmas begins to appear on the horizon; already, so to speak, does John reveal by exulting demonstrations the approach of our Infant-God. Sweet Prophet of the Most High, not yet canst thou speak, when already thou dost outstrip all the princes of prophecy; but full soon the desert will seem to snatch thee for ever from the commerce of men. Then Advent comes, and the Church will show us that she has found thee once more; she will constantly lead us to listen to thy sublime teachings, to hear thee bearing witness unto Him whom she is expecting. From this present moment, therefore, begin to prepare our souls; having descended anew on this our earth, coming as thou now dost, on this day of gladness, as the messenger of the near approach of our Saviour, canst thou possibly remain idle one instant, in face of the immense work which lies before thee to accomplish in us?

To chase sin away, subdue vice, correct the instincts falsified in this poor fallen nature of ours; all this would have been done within us, as indeed it should long ago, had we but responded faithfully to thy past labours. Yet, alas, it is only too true, that in the greater number of us, scarce has the first turning of the soil been begun: stubborn clay, wherein stones and briers have defied thy careful toil these many years! We acknowledge it to be so, filled as we are with the confusion of guilty souls: yea, we confess our faults to thee and to Almighty God, as the Church teaches us to do, at the beginning of the great sacrifice; but, at the same time, we beseech thee with her, to pray to the Lord our God for us. Thou didst proclaim in the desert: From these very stones even, God is still able to raise up children of Abraham. Daily, do the solemn formulae of the Oblation wherein is prepared the ceaselessly renewed immolation of our Saviour tell of the honourable and important part which is thine in this august Sacrifice; thy name, again pronounced whilst the Divine Victim is present on the Altar, pleads for us sinners to the God of all mercy.

Would that, in consideration of thy merits and of our misery, he would deign to be propitious to the persevering prayer of our mother the Church, change our hearts, and in place of evil attachments, attract them to virtue, so as to deserve for us the visit of Emmanuel! At this sacred moment of the Mysteries, when thrice is invoked, in the words of that formula taught us by thyself, the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world, he, this very Lamb, will Himself have pity upon us and give us peace: peace so precious, with heaven, with earth, with self, which is to prepare us for the Bridegroom by making us become sons of God (St. John, i. 12--St. Matth. v. 9), according to the testimony which, daily, by the mouth of the priest about to quit the altar, thou continuest to renew. Then, O Precursor, will thy joy and ours be complete; that sacred union, of which this day of thy Nativity already contains for us the gladsome hope, will become, even here below and beneath the shadow of faith, a sublime reality, whilst still awaiting the clear vision of eternity.


A Novena to St. John The Baptist

Precursor of our divine Lord, destined by the Eternal One to prepare His ways, thy seat must be high in Heaven, for on earth thou wert truly exalted.--Thou hast been pronounced the greatest of those born of woman, by the great Searcher of hearts. Thy miraculous birth and extraordinary life, thy austere penance and burning zeal, proclaim thee great; and were all these wanting, thy purity and profound humility would point thee out as one truly exalted. When thou camest into the world, thou didst come as the friend of thy Creator; and whilst on earth, thou didst never offend Him. Though thou didst administer baptism to Jesus Christ, thou still didst own, with due humility, that you were not worthy to loose the latchet of His shoe. As the reward of thy humility, Christ himself hath praised thee, and the whole world to the end of time will glory in thy birth. In thee we behold a miracle of God's grace and power; and we conjure thee to raise in our behalf that glorious voice, which, from the wilderness, pierced the heavens, and was heard at the throne of the Most High. We beg of thee to implore for us the intentions of this Novena.--N. N.

O, Holy Anchoret, as thou wert by excellence the friend of the Savior, thou canst obtain from him whatsoever thou wishest, for he ardently loved thee. Take me, then, under thy special protection; obtain for me the graces I stand in need of, and, more especially, perfect obedience to the voice of those who preach to us the necessity of true penance. O thou who wert a burning fire, obtain for us, through thy powerful intercession, a portion of that which is enkindled by the preaching of those whom God has commissioned to point out to us the way to eternal happiness. Teach us to know ourselves, teach us to know our God, and His son Jesus Christ our Lord. Obtain for us that we may be frequent and worthy partakers of the Holy Communion. Grant that we may approach with that angelic purity which enabled thee to discover the Lamb of God, though he was then unknown to the world. O Holy Martyr of Jesus, though I am not worthy to shed my blood for him as thou hast, I conjure thee to intercede for me, that I may live and die in the practice of Christian penance, and in the faithful observance of every duty which the law of God imposes on me.


Prayer to St. John the Baptist as your Patron Saint

Saint John the Baptist, whom I have chosen as my special patron, pray for me that I, too, may one day glorify the Blessed Trinity in heaven. Obtain for me your lively faith, that I may consider all persons, things, and events in the light of almighty God. Pray, that I may be generous in making sacrifices of temporal things to promote my eternal interests, as you so wisely did.

Set me on fire with a love for Jesus, that I may thirst for His sacraments and burn with zeal for the spread of His kingdom. By your powerful intercession, help me in the performance of my duties to God, myself and all the world.

Win for me the virtue of purity and a great confidence in the Blessed Virgin. Protect me this day, and every day of my life. Keep me from mortal sin. Obtain for me the grace of a happy death. Amen

Click here for 2nd webpage devoted to St. John the Baptist

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