Saint Augustine of Hippo
Early Church Father & Doctor of the Church
This reading on the birth of John the Baptist s taken by a sermon of St. Augustine (Sermo 293, 1-3; PL 38, 1327-1328) and is used in the Roman Office of Readings for June 24, the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist. St. John the Forerunner (aka San Juan Baptista or San Giovanni Battista) is the only Saint other than the Virgin Mary whose birthday is marked by a liturgical feast. Here Augustine brings out the similarities and contrasts between the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ and that of his cousin, who serves as a sort of boundary between the Old and New Covenants.
The Church observes the birth of John as in some way sacred; and you will not find any other of the great men of old whose birth we celebrate officially. We celebrate John’s, as we celebrate Christ’s. This point cannot be passed over in silence, and if I may not perhaps be able to explain it in the way that such an important matter deserves, it is still worth thinking about it a little more deeply and fruitfully than usual.
John is born of an old woman who is barren; Christ is born of a young woman who is a virgin. That John will be born is not believed, and his father is struck dumb; that Christ will be born is believed, and he is conceived by faith.
I have proposed some matters for inquiry, and listed in advance some things that need to be discussed. I have introduced these points even if we are not up to examining all the twists and turns of such a great mystery, either for lack of capacity or for lack of time. You will be taught much better by the one who speaks in you even when I am not here; the one about whom you think loving thoughts, the one whom you have taken into your hearts and whose temple you have become.
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.
A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
June 24, 2012
St. John the Baptist, a model for priests
The Precursor’s Nativity is celebrated by the Church because, even from the womb, he chosen and sanctified for his vocation. The Baptist is the greatest of the prophets, and is more than a prophet, for he rejoiced to see the day of the Bridegroom.
While the priest, in very specific moments, acts in persona Christi, most of his ministry is more closely tied to that of St. John the Baptist – directing people to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In this respect, St. John is a model for the priest as “friend of the Bridegroom” and “voice of one crying out in the wilderness”.
Nativity of John the Baptist: The Exigency to Prophesy
Today we leave the rotation of the Sundays of the Year for a celebration of the Calendar Feast Day: the celebration of the Birth of John the Baptist. This feast is put near the first day of summer, because, in the Northern Hemisphere, the days will now begin to grow shorter. John the Baptist proclaimed that he must decrease and the Lord must increase.
John the Baptist: In the Spirit and Power of Elijah
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of John the Baptist. I recorded a podcast that provides an overview of the biblical texts describing his importance. It will be posted here soon.
Of course, you can also hear it on iTunes.
In this post I recap much of what I covered there.
Heaven is heaven only for the holy
BLESSED JOHN HENRY CARDINAL NEWMAN
Even supposing a man of unholy life were suffered to enter heaven, he would not be happy there; so that it would be no mercy to permit him to enter…
Supposing, then, instead of it being said that no irreligious man could serve and attend on God in heaven (or see him, as the text expresses it), we were told that no irreligious man could worship, or spiritually see him in church; should we not at once perceive the meaning of the doctrine? viz. that, were a man to come hither, who had suffered his mind to grow up in its own way, as nature or chance determined, without any deliberate habitual effort after truth and purity, he would find no real pleasure here, but would soon get weary of the place; because in this house of God, he would hear only of that one subject which he cared little or nothing about, and nothing at all of those things which excited his hopes and fears, his sympathies and energies.
Your life is not about you
I was meditating on John 11, for personal Bible Study earlier today. It is the story of the raising of Lazarus. And I was struck by the following lines:
[Martha and Mary] sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Therefore, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days…..[Later. Jesus] told [his disciples] plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
The necessity of Viaticum and the duty of priests
St. Juliana, whose feast is commemorated today, was the niece of St. Alexis Falconieri (one of the seven founders of the Servite Order) and foundress of the Servite Tertiaries, also called the “Mantellate”. She is the patroness of the sick and of those suffering bodily ills – on account of the circumstances of her death, she could well be called the “Patroness of Viaticum”.
How Scripture is a Prophetic Interpretation of Reality and tells us what’s REALLY going on
When looking to Scripture it is clear that many historical events are being recounted. And while parts of the Scripture recount that history in the “strict” and modern sense of history, yet, many different genres are also used: poem, drama, moral tale, epic saga, wisdom saying, parable, apocalyptic, gospel, and so forth.
But all the Scripture amounts to a kind of sacred history where God, through his prophets, and apostles, his sages and scribes, gives us a prophetic interpretation of reality. As if to say, “What ever you think is going on, this is what is REALLY going on.”
Unbroken Chain of Apostolic Succession
In this episode of the program I answer two questions regarding apostolic succession and whether, in fact, we have an unbroken chain going back to the apostles.
The first question comes from Marci in Mexico, who wonders about the effect that various practices have on the liceity (lawfulness) and validity of episcopal consecrations.
How to Protect Your Religious Freedom with One Simple Action a Day
Want to participate in the Fortnight for Freedom campaign (hope so!), but don’t know where to start?
Well The Catholic Association is making it really easy for you (along with a whole lot of other people who have joined them). Here are 14 things they put together that you can do – one per day – that will each take only a few minutes. Make it a personal goal over this Fortnight to support the cause by following these simple steps:
Scientists find new evidence supporting John the Baptist bones theory
Scientists have uncovered new evidence that mysterious remains found in an ancient reliquary in a 5th century monastery on Sveti Ivan Island in Bulgaria belong to St John the Baptist.
The remains – small fragments of a skull, bones from a jaw and an arm, and a tooth – were discovered embedded in an altar in the ruins of the ancient monastery, on the island in the Black Sea.
No, We Don’t Leave Time When We Die
At least that is not the common understanding in Catholic theology.
Over the past couple of days, we’ve seen that the word “eternal” can be understood in more than one way.
God is eternal in the sense of being completely beyond time.
And some have made an unsuccessful argument for human souls leaving time and becoming eternal in the same sense as God.
Defending True Marriage
Dr. Jennifer Morse – whose acquaintance I renewed during Acton University last week – has been doing good work at the Ruth Institute to defend true marriage. Not too long ago, I visited a parish which had their pamphlet listing 77 non-religious reasons for defending true marriage between one man and one woman. Useful! Perhaps pastors of parishes could get some and put them on those tables by the doors.
Making Time for Prayer
How often does it occur to us to make our prayer lives a priority? Do we even know how to get started? How about if we stop making prayer conform to our day and instead make the day conform to our prayer lives. Not that this is easily done all the time, but it will help to start us off on the right path toward becoming more faithful Christians at work.
Top 10 Ways to Kill Your Faith
The conversion process gives us some much-needed time in the spiritual desert to really figure things out – the following list is intended to illustrate what I feel are the most effective ways to entirely sap your spiritual life as a Catholic utterly dry, or at the very least, put a brutal dent in it. If you want your spiritual life to grow, avoid the following.
Rejoice, I Say Rejoice!
“The word happiness does not occur in the Gospels,” writes Dorothy L. Sayers in The Whimsical Christian. “The word joy, on the other hand, occurs frequently – and so do the name and the image of hell. The command is to rejoice, not to display a placid contentment or a stoic fortitude.”
If we are commanded to rejoice, as we are commanded to love, then neither joy nor love is reducible to a feeling, since feelings are not at our beck and call. They are acts of the will. But since our wills are frail and prone to sin, we do not always love whom we should or rejoice when we should. We do not love our enemies.