Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hail, St. John the Baptist, greatest man born of women

"St. John the Baptist," El Greco 1606 AD

Today is the Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, who was descended, on his mother's side, from Aaron, the very first priest, and who was born to herald the new high priest, Jesus.  In this way, John the Baptist is the meeting point between the Old and New Covenants.   As St. Augustine says:

John . . . 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.

Since the significance of St. John exceeds human measure, maybe it's best to close with a poem.

St. John, strong Baptist,
Angel before the face of the Messiah
Desert-dweller, knowing the solitudes that lie
Beyond anxiety and doubt,
Eagle whose flight is higher than our atmosphere
Of hesitation and surmise,
You are the first Cistercian and the greatest Trappist:
Never abandon us, your few but faithful children,
For we remember your amazing life,
Where you laid down for us the form and pattern of
Our love for Christ,
Being so close to Him you were His twin.
Oh buy us, by your intercession, in your mighty heaven,
Not your great name, St. John, or ministry,
But oh, your solitude and death:
And most of all, gain us your great command of graces,
Making our poor hands also fountains full of life and wonder
Spending, in endless rivers, to the universe,
Christ, in secret, and His Father, and His sanctifying Spirit.

(from "St. John the Baptist", by Thomas Merton)

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