Summer Christmas!

Today’s solemn feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist — a veritable summer Christmas! — carries with it that rare distinction of supplanting Sunday’s ordinary liturgy.

In Luke’s Gospel, John the Baptist, seal and last of the great Hebrew prophets, forerunner of Christ, has a conception-birth that is intimately linked to Christ’s conception-birth. {note that John’s Nativity is six months before Christmas as John is six months older than Jesus.} When Mary visited Elizabeth, who was in her sixth month of pregnancy, John joyously ‘leapt’ in utero in the presence of the newly conceived Messiah and was, by Tradition, sanctified in the womb by a proto-waterless baptism that he would ‘supply ceremonies’ for later at the end of his life in a font of martyr’s blood.

John’s conception, birth, public ministry and martyrdom all serve to prepare the way for Christ’s own, and the Gospels affirm the link between Malachi 4:5-6, which foresees the Prophet Elijah’s return prior to the Messiah, and John the Baptizer.  Hence of late in the daily Mass readings we have bathed in the Scriptures about Elijah!

Let the Fire Fall

So much to say about John’s witness among the saints. Everything about him stood as a sign, a pointing-away toward Christ, which is the very essence of Christian holiness. He remained in ‘critical distance’ from Jewish society as he preached on the boundary of the desert along a muddy river, and was wholly dedicated to calling all strata of that society to a life in radical conformity with the covenant Law of Israel’s God. God was about to break into Israel’s history in a final and dramatic way to rescue her from the tyranny of sin, and John’s role was to prepare the way for that invasion by calling Jews to renounce their infidelities in the same waters their ancestors once crossed to take possession of the Promised Land; and the same waters Elijah crossed before being taken to heaven in a fiery Chariot.

They were to await the coming of the Fire that once burned the Law into Sinai-stone, as that Fire now burned among them, setting fire to water in order to re-inscribe the Law in hearts written in God’s image and likeness.

The fiery waters of Baptism began in us the work of inscription — but the divine Scribe awaits our daily consent to make of us a living Gospel to manifest to all the Word-made-flesh.

2 comments on “Summer Christmas!

  1. Contra says:

    Jesus once referred to John as the greatest man born of woman.

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