The Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist is on June 24th each year. I guess I never really sat down and considered this feast. It is the Birthday of John the Baptist! Did you know the church only celebrates three birthdays in the life of Salvation History? Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist are those three. The church, as a rule, does not celebrate birthdays, but the date of their death, their birth to the new life in eternal happiness.
By the Power of the Holy Spirit
The three birthday’s we do celebrate are because of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is pretty much a given for celebrating and his association with the Holy Spirit. Mary, as we know is the Immaculate Conception, and as such was made the perfect tabernacle for the Son of God. She was conceived without sin for this reason and because of this the Holy Spirit was with her. John the Baptist is believed to have received the Holy Spirit during the visitation, when the he lept in his mothers womb.
The Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, actually holds a liturgical importance and has done so since around the year 325! It follows the liturgical norms
In the Office for this feast St. Augustine wrote:
“Apart from the most holy solemnity commemorating our Savior’s birth, the Church keeps the birthday of no other person except that of John the Baptist. [The feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin had not yet been introduced.] In the case of other saints or of God’s chosen ones, the Church, as you know, solemnizes the day on which they were reborn to everlasting beatitude after ending the trials of this life and gloriously triumphing over the world.
“For all these the final day of their lives, the day on which they completed their earthly service is honored. But for John the day of his birth, the day on which he began this mortal life is likewise sacred. The reason for this is, of course, that the Lord willed to announce to men His own coming through the Baptist, lest if He appeared suddenly, they would fail to recognize Him. John represented the Old Covenant and the Law. Therefore he preceded the Redeemer, even as the Law preceded and heralded the new dispensation of grace.”
In other words this feast anticipates Christmas! Christmas in July, not quite! Johnmas maybe?
Faith can be fun
In the late 1950’s Archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Battista Montini (later Pope Paul VI) began a movement to revitalize the Diocese of Milan. He called it the Milan Mission and it caught on fire! His basic principle was to enjoy the faith, and have fun with it.
The different celebrations of the Church throughout the year, allow us to enjoy the faith in new ways. Why are we not more attentive to these times in the calendar, because they can do so much for us. The Liturgical Calendar is the backbone of all our celebrations and the heartbeat of the church. I covered it more in depth here. I don’t want to fall down the rabbit hole on the entire calendar when we have such a fun feast and an important one right in front of us!
St. John Fire
Christmas the celebration of the coming of Jesus and falls on the winter solstice. Likewise the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist falls on the summer solstice. Hence the lamp, of which prepared the way is today, six months later comes the light. We anticipate the incarnation in this feast. As a way to celebrate the Fire in John, the Holy Spirit burning bright, it is tradition to have a fire on the vigil and to even bless the new fire, cook over it, share time as a family, and remember the gifts of our faith.
My family has a cook out and sits outside around the chimenea after blessing it. As a result we have more time as a family to share our faith, and to stay in touch. I included at the end a blessing for the fire you can use with your family.
The reality is we have lost our fire for the faith. We are sitting around waiting for these great feasts to be celebrated by the church. To be directed to do such things. Take ownership and put these feasts in your families calendars and recognize these special feasts. Invite a friend over and use it to spread the message of Jesus Christ to them. Let them see what our beautiful faith is all about and enjoy a rich and traditional well spring of faith!
Blessing of the Fire
P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.
Let us pray.
Lord God, almighty Father, the light that never fails and the source of all light, sanctify + this new fire, and grant that after the darkness of this life we may come unsullied to you who are light eternal; through Christ our Lord.
The fire is sprinkled with holy water; after which the clergy and the people sing the following Hymn: Ut queant laxis
1. O for your spirit, holy John, to chasten
Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen;
So by your children might your deeds of wonder
Meetly be chanted.
2. Lo! a swift herald, from the skies descending,
Bears to your father promise of your greatness;
How he shall name you, what your future story,
3. Scarcely believing message so transcendent,
Him for a season power of speech forsaketh,
Till, at your wondrous birth, again returneth,
Voice to the voiceless.
4. You, in your mother’s womb all darkly cradled,
Knew your great Monarch, biding in His chamber,
Whence the two parents, through their offspring’s merits,
5. Praise to the Father, to the Son begotten,
And to the Spirit, equal power possessing,
One God whose glory, through the lapse of ages,
P: There was a man sent from God.
All: Whose name was John.
P: Let us pray. God, who by reason of the birth of blessed John have made this day praiseworthy, give your people the grace of spiritual joy, and keep the hearts of your faithful fixed on the way that leads to everlasting salvation; through Christ our Lord.