The Vigil of the Nativity of St John the Baptist

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The Vigil of the Nativity of St John the Baptist



The Archangel Gabriel announced that Elizabeth would have a son. Saint John the Baptist came to prepare the ways of the Lord. In Rome the devotion to St. John centers around the Lateran Basilica where Pope Hilary had erected two oratories, one in honor of St. John the Evangelist and the other in honor of St. John the Baptist. These two oratories became so famous that they gave the name of St. John to the Lateran Basilica itself.

The greatness of St. John the Baptist consists entirely in his mission of preparing the way for Jesus Christ. Therefore he did not live for himself, but for Christ and for His greater glory. This is genuine humility, the foundation of all true greatness before God.


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A Homily by St. Ambrose the Bishop

The divine Scriptures treach us that we are behoven to praise the holy living of those who are worthy of public honour, and of their forebears as well, so that this their transmitted heritage of spiritual resplendence may be made manifest. What other meaning can the holy Evangelist have had in this place but to glorify Saint John Baptist, as well for having been the offspring of such parents, as for his miracles, his life, his gifts, and his sufferings? So likewise is praise ascribed to Hannah, the mother of Samuel; so also did Isaac draw from his parents that noble godliness which he in his turn bequeathed to his children. Thus it is told not only that Zacharias was a priest, but a priest of the course of Abia, that is to say, of a family noble among the noblest.

And his wife was of the daughters of Aaron. Thus we see that the noble blood of holy John was inherited not only from parents, but from an ancient ancestry, not illustrious indeed by worldly power, but worshipful for the tradition of a sacred succession. Such were the forefathers whom it well became the Forerunner of Christ to have, that it might manifestly fall to his lot, not as a sudden gift, but as an heirloom, to preach belief in the coming of the Lord. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless. What do they make of this text who, to get them some consolation for their own sins, hold that man cannot exist without oftentimes sinning? To this end they are wont to quote what is written in Job to the effect that no one is clean, even though his life on the earth be but one day.

To such we must reply by asking them first to tell us what they mean by a man without sin?whether it be one who hath never sinned, or one who hath ceased to sin. If they mean by a man without sin who hath never sinned, I myself agree in their position, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But if they mean to deny that he who hath reformed his old, crooked way, and changed his life for a new one, on purpose to avoid sin, cannot avoid sin, I am not able to subscribe to their opinion while I read that Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify it, and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it would be holy and without blemish.



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