Speaking the Truth While Losing His Head
St. John the Baptist was the first and only child born to a Jewish priest named Zachary and his wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a relative of the Blessed Virgin Mary and believed to be barren and past the age of child bearing. John’s birth was prophesized by an angel who appeared to Zachary as he prayed in the temple. Zachary expressed doubt at the angel’s words and as punishment was unable to speak until the child was born and named according to Jewish custom. John was a man of abiding Faith and he served to prepare the hearts of his people for the coming of the Lord. As such, he is known as the Precursor. He is, however, more notably called the Baptist as he baptized people in the Jordan River.
The feast day of St. John the Baptist is celebrated by the Church on June 24th. The placement of his feast points towards the special relationship of Christ to His Precursor, John. The Annunication took place three months before John’s birth when his mother was in her sixth month of pregnancy. Appropriately that feast is March 25th, nine months before Christmas. Three months later, on June 24th, when Elizabeth would have completed her pregnancy is the nativity of John. Six months following this is the birth of Christ on December 25th. The birth of John the Baptist is near the summer solstice and the birth of Christ near the winter solstice, giving even greater depth to the words spoken by John, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 Douay Rheims). At the time of the feast of John the Baptist the days begin to decrease in length and at Christmas, the days once again lengthen.
John is honored with one of only three nativities on the calendar. Of the three births honored on the calendar, one is that of Christ, another is His mother, and the last is His Precursor. John was conceived with original sin but was filled with the Holy Ghost while in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). It is traditionally believed that John was baptized while in his mother’s womb by Christ as Mary approached Sarah at the Visitation. This was indicated by the child John “leaping” in her womb.
The given date of John’s death is August 29th. He was beheaded by order of Herod Antipas. Herod was scandalously living with Herodias, the wife of Herod Phillip. Herodias was angry that this union was publically denounced by John and sent her own daughter, Salome, to dance for and entice Herod. In return he promised Salome a request who at her mother’s urging demanded the head of John the Baptist on a platter. John died a zealous and courageous defender of the Faith and morality, particularly as it relates to the sacred nature of marriage. May we be so faithful in our own lives. St. John the Baptist, pray for us.