Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer time and St. John the Baptist

Summer arrived officially in these parts at 1:45 a.m. last Sunday, today, 24 June, is the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. So we know that the hot weather is here and the tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers are staring to come in from my garden. I will eat a bacon and tomato sandwich tonight in honor of the Baptist's birthday.

Had I been better prepared, I would have scheduled a bonfire for last evening as is the custom on that day. Besides the blessing of the fire, the burning of retired sacramentals, and the singing of Ut queant laxis, a decade of the rosary is to be recited while processing around the fire deiseil (sun wise or clockwise), then there's supposed to be a party. Young men should prove their manhood by jumping over the fire (source of "Jack, be nimble?") and torches should be carried through the fields to encourage the crops. Obviously, there's a lot of pre-Christian stuff here, but that's OK, too, isn't it? God was still God before the Advent of Christ. I think that's correct.
There are sounds of construction that I hear every day, as a new clinic and pharmacy go up visible from my window. Too bad there are no similar sounds here. Construction sounds are as sweet as music to me.
St. John sent us a pleasing shower last evening around supper time. Unusual for this time of year, but quite well-received.
Of the Baptist, St. Augustine saith:
John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, The Law and the prophets were until John. So he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb. You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary’s arrival he leapt in his mother’s womb. Already he had been marked out there, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him. These are divine matters, and exceed the measure of human frailty. Finally, he is born, he receives a name, and his father’s tongue is loosed.
Zachary is struck dumb and loses his voice, until John, the Lord’s forerunner, is born and releases his voice for him. What does Zachary’s silence mean, but that prophecy was obscure and, before the proclamation of Christ, somehow concealed and shut up? It is released and opened up by his arrival, it becomes clear when the one who was being prophesied is about to come. The releasing of Zachary’s voice at the birth of John has the same significance as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ. If John were meant to proclaim himself, he would not be opening Zachary’s mouth. The tongue is released because a voice is being born – for when John was already heralding the Lord, he was asked, Who are you and he replied I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.
John is the voice, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word. John is a voice for a time, but Christ is the eternal Word from the beginning.

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