Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of S. John the Baptist : not, to be quite honest, a Saint with whom I feel I’d have a great deal in common – fond as I am of honey, I’ve never managed to develop a taste for locusts, for a start; and I generally prefer to have my clothes made of conventional fabrics rather than being snatched off the back of some wild beast who may not yet have finished with them !
There is one point, however, where I do feel an affinity with him, although no doubt for a very different reason : and that is his focus on Our Blessed Lord, when he said ‘Behold the Lamb of God’.
One of the reasons I prefer the Extraordinary Form is because I can follow the Mass in my own way, and with my own prayers, rather than it being expected that I will get the most benefit from following along with someone else’s idea of what is most appropriate : and for me, one of the focal points of the Mass, at least on a good percentage of occasions, one of the things at which my devotion aims, is that moment when the priest hold up the Host and says ‘Ecce Agnus Dei; ecce Qui tollit peccata mundi’.
Pious ejaculations are largely out of fashion nowadays; although such things as the ‘Jesus Prayer’ do seem to have made something of a comeback in recent years : but that single sentence seems to me to concentrate within itself much of the mystery of the Mass . . . and thus much of the mystery of our Redemption.
He may not have been our first choice of guest for an enjoyable party : but S. John the Baptist gave us a great gift for his birthday – a recognition of exactly what Our Lord offers us; salvation, through His sacrifice; the birthday of a new vision of redemption . . . and for that, if nothing else, it seems to me we must be grateful to him.