Today is the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. I was reflecting this morning about the location of the feast in the annual liturgical cycle. The date of June 24th reflects Luke’s testimony (Lk 1:36-37) that John was conceived six months before Jesus.
It’s interesting, though, that this feast comes so soon after the close of the Easter season. I suspect most of us are a bit exhausted after the march through Lent, the Triduum, Ascension, and Pentecost! Right at the point where we are tempted to bed down for a nice long summer nap through Ordinary Time, John is there, calling us to repentance and reminding us of He who is to come. This feast also comes at the beginning of summer, the longest day of the year. It’s a caution against complacency. Dark days lie ahead and the Son of Man is a sign that will be contradicted.
I also found these thoughts from the Orthodox priest Robert Arida that are worth considering:
Barrenness and prophesy are two interconnected themes which permeate the feast of the Baptist’s nativity. Elizabeth’s barrenness is used by God to reveal his love for the entire creation. This divine love, expressed in divine power and glory, enables the cousin of the Virgin to conceive. The conception and birth of St. John points to the termination not only of the barrenness of Zachariah and Elizabeth but also that of cosmic barrenness. Sin and death had rendered the creation incapable of nurturing and sustaining life. For the reign of death, traced back to Adam’s fall, aborted all life which was destined from all eternity to abide in the bosom of God.
Today we celebrate and bear witness to the unfolding of the creation’s renewal now affirmed in the birth of John the Baptist. Previously bound to death, the creation begins to reflect its true identity. From the barrenness of Elizabeth emerges the forerunner of the one who is life.
Celebrating the nativity of St. John should be an expression of our thanks to God who has delivered us from the horrible barrenness of death, which not only robs us of our biological existence but strives to impair and ultimately smother the creative powers of the mind and heart. Consequently, human creativity, now imbued with hope and life, is urged on by divine love to transcend its inherent limitations. Finding its highest expression in true worship human creativity is joined to divine life. The human person and his unique energy gradually, through ascetic effort, achieves harmony with the divine energy and hence the unfolding of the eternal ascent into the kingdom which is to come.