There are three birthdays that are celebrated in the church year. The most popular is of course the Nativity of Jesus, better known as Christmas. The birth of the Theotokos, Mary, is another which falls in September. And last we come to the Nativity of John the Baptist on the 24th of June.
John is such an iconic figure in the gospels. He lives apart, in the wilderness dressed like a caveman, acting like a character from a Flannery O’connor story; drawing us in and scaring us at the same time. Or like the street prophet who carries a sign about the “end of the world”, but in John’s case, he is really preparing for the beginning of one. He is a voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.”.
His birth comes 6 months before the birth of Jesus, and even here he prepares the way, marking the midpoint of the year, we begin to move toward Christmas rather than away. The days diminish as we pass the summer solstice, like John who must decrease and allow Christ to increase.
The greatest moment in the ministry of this man, is remembered in every mass, as the priest identifies the sacrifice, “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” and is re emphasized, in the Agnus Dei, (Agnus Dei, qui tollis pecatta mundi, miserere nobis). We are constantly reminded of this epiphany, this collision of heaven and earth as the last prophet prepares and passes the world into the hands of God Incarnate.