FRIDAY, JUNE 24: If there was one birth in the history of the Christian Church that would foretell the miracle of Christmas, today’s saint has it: Western Christians today celebrate the Nativity (birth) of John the Baptist. Most saints of the Church are remembered on their death anniversary, since that is the day they entered Heaven; John and the Virgin Mary alone are also remembered on their birth anniversaries, since they are the only two in history—besides Jesus—born without Original Sin. (Wikipedia has details.) In the early Church, John the Baptist was the sole saint remembered on his birth day, as the Virgin Mary’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin had not been introduced yet. Even Jesus himself proclaimed, “Among those born of women, no one is greater than John.”
It’s accounted that John’s first prophesy occurred while he was still in Elizabeth’s womb: When the Virgin Mary came to visit a pregnant Elizabeth, John “leapt” in greeting to Mary. Prior to his conception, John’s parents were told they would have a child despite their old age; upon his birth, John’s father wrote, “His name is John,” in accordance with direction from the Archangel Gabriel. (AmericanCatholic has more on this saint’s life.) During his lifetime, Christians believe, John would announce the coming of the Kingdom of God, and he would eventually baptize the Messiah.
The Nativity of John the Baptist is recorded as one of the oldest festivals of the Christian Church. In some countries—such as Brazil—this feast is still observed with great fervor. (Learn more at CatholicCulture.org.) Brazilians often light bonfires on St. John’s Eve and eat traditional foods, light firecrackers and host parties.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.