The Feast of Nativity of John the Baptist – 24th June

St John the Baptist, the son of Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, is the only saint other than the Virgin Mary, whose birthday is celebrated by the Church in a liturgical feast.

Ordinarily, the Church celebrates the day of a saint’s death as their feast. However, Mary and John the Baptist are exceptions. All other saints were born with original sin, but Mary was free from original sin and John was cleansed of original sin in the womb of his mother.

Just like the announcement of the birth of Jesus, St John’s birth was announced by the angel Gabriel. Zecharaiah, John’s father, received the news of his son’s impending birth while he was serving his priestly duties in the Temple in Jerusalem. When the angel made the announcement to Zechariah, he told him that God had heard his prayers and that he and his barren wife would become the parents of a son. The angel told Zecchariah that he would name his son John. Then he told Zechariah that the child would be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb and his life would be dedicated to the service of God. The angel announced that the child would prepare Israel for the messiah.

Doubting that his elderly and barren wife could bear a child, Zechariah asked the angel Gabriel for a sign. The angel obliged and Zechariah was struck dumb. Gabriel told Zechariah that he would not be able to speak until the child was born. Just before silencing Zechariah, Gabriel revealed his name;

And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God’ – Luke 1:19

This was the name of the same angel who had revealed the coming of ‘the end’ to the prophet Daniel. Zechariah now understood that what the angel was saying was true.

Elizabeth was six months pregnant when the Blessed Virgin Mary, who had already conceived the saviour, came to visit her. When Mary approached, Saint John, already being filled with the Holy Spirit, leaped for joy in his mother’s womb when he became aware of the approach of the Son of God.

According to the Tradition of the Church, John was born on June 24th around 2/3 BC. He began his ministry when he was around thirty years old. He called people to repent and baptised them in water as a sign of purification. He baptised Jesus, upon Jesus’ own request.

Jesus called John the greatest of all those who preceded him. John spent his time in the dessert. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom. His life’s purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus.

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