Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
June 23, 2022 ( usually 6/24)
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the feast of John the Baptist! What a life! What a man!
You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
From a little baby leaping in his mother’s womb to the grown man ferociously in love with God, John the Baptist is holy fire in the flesh.
I’ve had a real love for him since my early religious life. Mother Mary Bernard, Mother General in the early 60s, had great devotion to John. She chose June 24th both to receive me and my companions into the community, and to celebrate our First Profession.
I remember Mother talking to us during a retreat leading up to one of these events. She spoke at length about John, emphasizing one particular verse he uttered:
Mother said that coming to understand this verse was what a holy, joyful, and complete life was all about.
Here is a reflection I wrote about John a few years ago.
The Sharp Edge
In John the Baptist, we celebrate the greatest of the prophets, a man whom history has now sanctified in Scripture, statue, painting, and song.
But what might it have been like to know him in time?
Prophets generally make us uncomfortable. Like John, they shake up their family’s routine, sometimes rendering their parents speechless and their neighbors astounded. They might dress oddly, rant a bit, and follow a strange diet. They hang out in inhospitable places. Prophets are the oddities on the edge of our striving for comfort. Someone like John the Baptist would not be the most popular member of your country club.
And yet John the Baptist’s call is one given, in its own particular measure, to every disciple of Christ:
- Go to the sharp edge of your existence. That is where you will find the Divine Presence.
- Go by way of the inner desert, continually learning the aridity of all that is not God.
- Shed the trappings that separate you from the Holy – be they the adoration of wealth, power, or vanity.
- Then speak the Truth you have become.
The poet Mary Oliver put it simply this way:
Where will we find the prophets today? At the borders of everything. But they will be building bridges, not walls. They will be inviting the rest of us out of the quagmire of our comfort zones to come see Christ rising on the bright distance of our courage. Today’s prophets, like John, will be pointing away from themselves to the place where Christ waits with His counter-cultural Gospel – among those who are poor, weakened by the world, among the marginalized who live at life’s sharp edge where Grace is most accessible because it is all there is.
The wonderful Baptist, robed in his camel hair, eating locusts, shouting and throwing people into the Jordan! The greatest of the prophets calls down the hills of time to us today: “Behold One is coming after me. Prepare your hearts! Do not miss Him!”
Poetry: John the Baptist – Kelly Chripczuk
He didn’t see it, but felt it
through the darkness
of his mother’s womb,
the flame that baptized
drawn close enough
to singe his foot,
which caused him to leap.
The wild fire caught
and grew, ruining him
for a life of conformity.
So he moved to the wilderness
somewhere near the river’s edge
where others were drawn
by the smoldering flame.
He doused them each with water,
warning them one-by-one
of the fire to come.
Later, when he leapt
from this world to the next,
leaving his head behind,
he was greeted by the fellowship
of the flame – Isaiah
with his charred black lips,
Miriam who danced
like a flickering wick,
and the others, too many now to name
together they glowed like
so many embers,
lighting the long, dark night.
Visit Kelly’s wonderful website ” The Contemplative Life” at:
Music: BWV30 Cantata for Nativity of St John the Baptist – Karl Richter conducting
- Aria (S, A, T, B)
Joyful be, O ransomed throng,
Joyful be in Zion’s dwellings.
Thy well-being hath henceforth
Found a sure and solid means
Thee with bliss and health to shower.
- Recit. (B)
We have our rest,
The burden of the law
Has been removed.
Nought shall from this repose distract us,
Which our belovéd fathers oft
Had sought with yearning and with hope.
Be joyful all, whoever can,
And raise to pay their God due honor
A song of praise,
And all the heav’nly choir,
Yea, sing in glad accord!
- Aria (B)
All praise be to God, all praise for his name’s sake,
Who faithfully keepeth his promise and vow!
His faithful servant hath been born now,
Who long had for this been elected,
That he the Lord his way prepare.
- Recit. (A)
The herald comes and sounds the king’s approach,
He calls; so tarry not
And get ye up,
And with a lively pace
Rush to this voice’s call!
It shows the way, it shows the light
By which we on those blessed pastures
At last may surely gaze with wonder.
- Aria (A)
Come, ye sorely tempted sinners,
Haste and run, O Adam’s children,
This your Savior calls and cries!
Come forth, ye like sheep that wander,
Rise ye up from sin-filled slumber,
For now is the hour of grace!
- Chorale (S, A, T, B)
There a voice of one is crying
In the desert far and wide,
Leading mankind to conversion:
For the Lord the way prepare,
Make for God a level path,
All the world should henceforth rise,
Every valley shall be lifted,
That the mountains may be humbled.
- Recit. (B)
If thou dost then, my hope, intend
That law which thou didst make
With our forefathers to maintain
And in thy gracious might o’er us to reign,
Then will I set with utmost care
On this my purpose:
Thee, faithful God, at thy command
In holiness and godly fear to live.
- Aria (B)
I will detest now
And all avoid
Which thee, my God, doth cause offense.
I will thee not cause sadness,
Instead sincerely love thee,
For thou to me so gracious art.
- Recit. (S)
And even though the fickle heart
In human weakness is innate,
Yet here and now let this be said:
So oft the rosy morning dawns,
So long one day the next one lets ensue,
So long will I both strong and firm
Through thine own Spirit live,
My God, entirely for thine honor.
And now shall both my heart and voice
According to thy covenant
With well deservéd praise extol thee.
- Aria (S)
Haste, ye hours, come to me,
Bring me soon into those pastures!
I would with the holy throng
To my God an altar raise,
In the tents of Kedar offered,(1)
Where I’ll give eternal thanks.
- Recit. (T)
Forbear, the loveliest of days
Can no more far and distant be,
When thou from every toil
Of imperfection’s earthly burdens,
Which thee, my heart, doth now enthrall,
Wilt come to have thy perfect freedom.
Thy hope will come at last,
When thou with all the ransomed spirits,
In that perfected state,
From death here of the body wilt be freed,
And there thee no more woe will torment.
- Aria (S, A, T, B)
Joyful be, O hallowed throng,
Joyful be in Zion’s pastures!
Of thy joyful majesty,
Of thy full contentment’s bliss
Shall all time no end e’er witness.