Today in the Catholic Church is the Nativity (Birth) of St. John the Baptist, a particularly important feast day in the Latin Mass and Byzantine or Eastern liturgies. Jesus Christ said of John (Matt. 11:11), “Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist.” Coming from God Himself, that is a truly astounding tribute.
John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets and heralded the beginning of the New Testament with the coming of the Messiah, his own cousin Jesus (John’s mother Elizabeth and Jesus’s mother Mary were cousins). John was miraculously conceived in his parents’ old age, his conception was foretold by the Angel Gabriel both to his father Zachary and to the Virgin Mary during the Annunciation, and he grew up to live in the wilderness as a harsh ascetic eating locusts and honey.
John grew famous preaching the coming of the kingdom of God and baptizing sinners, ultimately baptizing Jesus (Matt. 3, Mark 1, Luke 3) too and beholding the theophany or revelation of the Trinity during that baptism. John testified that Jesus was the “Lamb of God,” thus foreshadowing Jesus’s death on the cross, and some of Jesus’s apostles were first followers of John. St. John was later martyred by beheading at King Herod’s order after he incurred the wrath of Herod’s new wife for condemning their incestuous marriage.
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