June 24, 2017: NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST
June 24, 2017: NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST
Rank: Double of the I Class.
“Give ear, ye Islands; and hearken, ye people from afar: From my mother’s womb did the Lord call me by my name; and he made
my mouth like a sharp sword; under the shadow of his hand hath he protected me, and made me as a chosen arrow.”
O God, who hast honoured this day by the Birth of Blessed John the Baptist: grant thy people may rejoice in spirit, and guide them in the way of eternal salvation. Through thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
“Thou child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Most High: Thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.”
That we with tuneful notes may sound
Thy life, with signal wonders crown’d,
Great Baptist let no sinful strain
Our life with discord stain.
An Angel comes from God’s high throne,
And to thy frighted Sire makes known
Thy future greatness, office, fame,
Abstemious life and name.
But he this news with doubt receives;
For which his faithless speech him leaves;
Till, at thy birth, more faithful found,
It gain’d its former sound.
From nature’s dark and secret room
Thou know’st thy Lord in Mary’s womb;
And from the fulness of thy fire
Thy parents didst inspire.
To God the Father and the Son,
And Holy Spirit, three in one,
Be equal glory, equal praise.
For endless years and days. Amen.
V. There was a man sent from God.
R. Whose name was John.
LESSON – Isaias, xlix. 1-7.
Give ear, ye islands, and be attentive to me, ye people afar off. The Lord called me from the womb, and from the bowels of my mother hath he called to mind my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword: under the shadow of his hand hath he protected me, and made me as a chosen arrow; in his quiver hath he hidden me. And he said to me: Israel, thou art my servant; for in thee will I be glorified. And now saith the Lord, who formed me from the womb to be his servant; Behold I have made thee a light to the Gentiles, and my salvation even to the ends of the earth. Kings shall see, and Princes rise up and adore for the Lord’s sake, and the Holy one of Israel, who hath chosen thee.
GOSPEL. Luke i. 57-68.
Elizabeth’s time of being delivered was come, and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and kindred heard how the Lord had shown his great mercy towards her, and they congratulated with her. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias after his father’s name. And his mother answering, said: No, but he shall be called John. And they said to her: There is none of thy kindred that is called by that name. And they made signs to his Father, to know how he would have him called. And he, asking for a writing table, wrote, saying: John is his name. And they all wondered: and immediately his mouth was opened, and his tongue loosed; and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came upon all their neighbours; and all these things were noised abroad through all hill-country of Judea. And all that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying: What think you, will this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him. And Zacharias his father was filled with the Holy Ghost, and he prophesied, saying: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for that he hath visited, and wrought the redemption of his people.
CANTICLE OF ST. 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 covenant. The oath which he swore to Abraham our father, that he would grant to us. That being delivered from the hands of our enemies, we may serve him without fear: In holiness and justice before him, all our days. And thou, child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, to prepare his ways: To give knowledge of salvation to his people, 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.
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist
The Voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord; behold thy God!” (Isaias, 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 is not yet manifested; but already have the heavens bowed down, (Ps, xvii. 10) to make way for his passage. No longer is 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 is 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 hath chosen for His mother. Our accursed earth, made suddenly more blessed far, than yonder heaven inexorably closed erstwhile to suppliant prayer,—awaits no longer aught, save that the august mystery be revealed; the hour is come for earth to join her canticles to that Eternal Praise Divine, which henceforth is rising from the depths, and which being itself no other than the Word Himself, celebrates 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 recognised Him in His merciful abasements, may succeed in making Him to be 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 will not intrude himself into public life; he will await, for the inauguration of his divine ministry, some man who has preceded him in a similar career, and who is 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 but have 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 signalised 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 Increated, 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. (Isaias, xl.) 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. (Malach, 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, when 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 angel's 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 woful sterility beneath which earth has been so long groaning, is not to be followed by an ignorance more sorrow-stricken still, now that it hath 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. (Canticles, 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 honour 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 unto 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. (St. Luke, i. 68)
Taken from: The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806; and
The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. III, Dublin, Edition 1890.
The child that is born to us, is more than a Prophet: for this is he of whom the Saviour saith: Among the born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.