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Tuesday, 4 July 2017

St. John the Baptist Precursor by St. Augustine


St. John the Baptist and Christ Matthew 3:13-17

From a sermon by Saint Augustine, bishop

The Voice of one crying in the wilderness

The Church observes the birth of John as a hallowed event. (Birth of St. John the Baptist Feast Day June 24th).  

John the Baptist's birth
We have no such commemoration for any other fathers; but it is significant that we celebrate the birthdays of John and Jesus.  This day cannot be passed by.  And even if my explanation does not match the dignity of the feast, you may still meditate on it with great depth and profit.

John was born of a woman too old for childbirth; Christ was born of a youthful virgin.  The news of John’s birth was met with incredulity, and his father was struck dumb.  Christ’s birth was believed, and he was conceived through faith.

Such is the topic, as I have presented it, for our inquiry and discussion.  But as I said before, if I lack either the time or the ability to study the implications of so profound a mystery, he who speaks within you even when I am not here will teach you better; it is he whom you contemplated with devotion, whom you have welcomed into your hearts, whose temples you have become.

John, then, appears as the boundary 
between the two testaments, 
the old and the new.  

That he is a sort of boundary the Lord himself bears witness, when he speaks of the law and the prophets until John the Baptist.  Thus he represents times past and is the herald of the new era to come.  

As a representative of the past, he is born of aged parents; as a herald of the new era, he is declared to be a prophet while still in his mother’s womb at the arrival of blessed Mary.  

The Visitation

In that womb 
he has already been designated a prophet, 
even before he was born, 
it is revealed that he was to be Christ’s precursor, before they ever 
saw one another.  

These are divine happenings going beyond the limits of our human frailty.  Eventually he is born, he receives his name, his father’s tongue is loosened.  See how these events reflect reality.


Zechariah is silent and loses his voice until John, the precursor of the Lord, is born and restores his voice.  

The silence of Zechariah is nothing 
but the age of prophecy lying hidden, 
obscured, as it were, and concealed 
before the preaching of Christ.  

Zechariah regains his voice 
At St. John’s arrival Zechariah’s voice is released, and it becomes clears at the coming of the one who was foretold.  The release of Zechariah’s voice at the birth of John is a parallel to the rending of the veil of Christ’s crucifixion.  

If John were announcing his own coming, Zechariah’s lips would not have been opened.  The tongue is loosened because a voice is born.  For when John  was preaching the Lord’s coming he was asked: Who are you?  And he replied:  I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.   

The voice is John, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word.   

St. John the Baptist preaching

John was a voice that lasted 
only for a time; 
Christ, the Word in the beginning, is eternal.