24 June 2007

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Last night and this morning the Divine Service celebrated the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. We were blest to have a guest celebrant and preacher: Pastor Charles Lehmann, of Peace With Christ Lutheran Church, Fort Collins, CO, and, of course, our former vicar. Pastor Lehmann gave a very fine homily on the Holy Gospel for this day (Luke 1:57-80). The prayer of the church commemorated not only the Blessed Virgin and her husband Joseph, together with Sts. Peter and Paul, but especially today St. John and his parents Sts. Zechariah and Elizabeth.

It was the venerable Bede who observed long ago that the words of St. John are fulfilled for us in the natural realm: "He must increase, but I must decrease." Thus, after the birth of our Lord we note that the daylight in the sky begins to grow more and more; after the birth of St. John, it begins to decline a bit more each day. In the entire calendar of the Church only two births are observed: that of our Lord and that of His forerunner, St. John.

As we sang this morning:

Before he yet was born,
He leaped in joyful meeting,
Confessing Him as Lord
Whose Mother he was greeting.
By Jordan's rolling stream,
A new Elijah bold,
He testified of Him
Of whom the prophets told.

4 comments:

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Fr. Weedon,
You noted that "In the entire calendar of the Church only two births are observed: that of our Lord and that of His forerunner, St. John." I don't bring this up to quarrel, but I wanted to just add a little clarity to that topic.
There are two other births, in the traditional calendar anyway, namely, the Blessed Virgin Mary on 8 September, and St. Agnes on 28 January.

Admittedly, St. Augustine makes the same claim you did, in his "Sermon 20 on the Saints" (assigned to be read at Matins for today's feast), where he says, "Apart from the most holy solemnity commemorating our savior's birth, the Church keeps the birthday of no other person except that of John the Baptist." Surely, however, the other two feasts I mention postdate St. Augustine. St. Agnes's feast, actually both of her feasts, I hasten to add, though, are indeed of a relatively early date, though, as I say, I suppose don't arise universally until after Augustine's time. Her dormition, after all, didn't take place until 304.

William Weedon said...

Thanks, Latif, for the correction. I was actually just thinking, though, of the Calendar from LSB - and should likely not have termed that "the entire calendar of the Church" but "of our Church." But if we look at our Commemorations, then we have the oddity of Martin Chemnitz' birth and Philipp Melanchthon. Still not sure what gives with THOSE! :)

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Just one more thought, this one to sort of back up or affirm the point you were perhaps making, namely the connection, or relationship, between John's birth and Christ's. One of the reasons I like this feast is that, indeed, it almost feels to me like a Christmas in June. It is the Church's great summer nativity, precisely six months before Christmas Eve. The stories are so related, it's almost like one of the subtle themes of the 24 June feast is "Now don't forget, six months from now, when all is cold and dark, One will come after John, Who is greater than him, viz., the Father's love begotten Himself."

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Fr. Wedon wrote of "the oddity of Martin Chemnitz' birth and Philipp Melanchthon. Still not sure what gives with THOSE!"

Gaba responds: Nor am I. I'd like to see an apologia for the LSB calendar (along with other aspects of LSB), just so I could see and appreciate the process that went into those decisions.

I would not mind, however, a feast for Chemnitz' falling asleep, which I think would fall on 18 April.