Nativity of St John the Baptist (June 24)
The birthday of John the Baptist, six months before the birth of Jesus, has been celebrated on June 24 from the earliest days of the Church. Jesus Himself called John, who prepared the way for Him by his preaching, the greatest of men. A "voice in the desert," John, as the final prophet of the Old Testament, told the people of his time that their Lord was near. The announcement of John's birth by the Angel Gabriel to Zachary, his father, was received with disbelief because Zachary's wife, Elizabeth, was beyond childbearing age. Yet the angel insisted, "You shall call his name John for he will be great before the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb." In the wastelands of Judea, people from all ranks of society came to hear John and their hearts were moved by his call to repent. Many were baptized by him in the River Jordan as a sign of their conversion; some remained to live with him as his disciples. His denunciation of King Herod's immoral conduct shocked the king's court, and John eventually suffered death for speaking truth to the powerful. Jesus began His own mission by being baptized by John. Recognizing the Son of God, whose "Sandals he was not worthy to untie," John said: "He must increase, and I must decrease." John's life prepared for Jesus Who was eternal life. Early commentators never failed to note that after June 24 - the Feast of John the Baptist, the sun's light begins to decrease until December 25, the birth of Jesus, when the light of the sun increases again.