JOHN THE BAPTIST
FEAST, JUNE 24
The Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (whose life is universally familiar from the accounts in the four Gospel,$) is one of the most Interesting in the Church's Calendar.
It is probably the oldest feast, introduced Into both the Greek and Latin liturgies, to commemorate a saint. This first feast honours the Saint with his birthday, instead of with the day of death as with other saints. This exception is because John was " filled with the Holy Ghost while yet a child in his mother's womb." The second feast of the Beheading (August 29) is of like antiquity, while some of the oldest martyrologies mention a third feast: the Conception of St. John (September 24).
In modern times the feast has lost a great deal of its former importance when its liturgy was almost as unique and remark able as that of Christmas itself. It was preceded by a fast, which has been dropped, and in many places two offices were recited, the first at sunset commemorating the old Law and the second, with Alleluia, in the night to commemorate the time of grace. Three masses, too, were said, as on Christmas: the first to honour the Precursor, the second the Baptist and the third the Saint
This exceptional liturgical celebration, coinciding as it did, with the lovely nights of midsummer, made the feast extremely popular, the rejoicing and happiness of the Christian people being expressed by bonfires all over the countryside.
In England today the bonfires have been transferred to Guy Fawkes day when anti-Papist traditions are maintained and St. John is overlooked even by Catholics.
Our picture is from the Stained Glass of Chartres.