Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Maximus of Turin
John is his name (Lk: 1:60).
Our feelings of piety and devotion bid us rejoice today in the birth of Saint John the Baptist. He was chosen by God to come and proclaim him who is the joy of the human race and the bliss of heaven. He is the new witness from whose lips the world heard that our Redeemer, the Lamb of God, was at hand. He, the trustworthy messenger of so great a mystery, was the witness whose birth was announced by an angel to parents who had given up hope of offspring.
What person of good sense, discerning the hand of heaven in his birth, would not believe that he proclaimed divine mysteries? For he was not yet a child and was being carried partly formed in the womb when, by the privilege of the grace bestowed on him, he filled the heart of his blessed mother with eternal joy, and before his birth she made known the fruitfulness of her once barren womb. Elizabeth said to Mary: “Why, as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy! How is it that I am honored by a visit from the mother of my Lord?”
It is not surprising that this elderly woman was endowed with the gift of foreknowledge, since she was to give birth to the herald of the most high God.
Elizabeth's barrenness became her glory, for because her fruitfulness was delayed she obtained by the gift of a single child the honor of all posterity. While in their old age she and her husband were lamenting her unfruitfulness, she unexpectedly brought forth not merely a son for herself but the herald of eternal salvation for the whole world. Such a great herald was he that by anticipating the grace of his future ministry, he gave his mother the spirit of prophecy, and by the power of the name assigned to him by the angel, he opened the mouth of his father Zechariah, which had been sealed by doubt.
For Zechariah had lost the power of speech not permanently, but so that the miraculous restoration of his voice might give heavenly testimony to the prophetic child. The priest who used to speak to the people became dumb so that his public silence might bring the mystery of the sacred birth to the notice of the entire people, and they would not dare to disbelieve.
Of him whose birth his father doubted, incurring the punishment of being unable to speak, the Evangelist says: “He himself was not the light, but came to give testimony to the light so that everyone might believe through him.“ Indeed he was not the light, but because he was worthy to give testimony to the true light, he was wholly in the light. Therefore let us all give honor to the most blessed John by celebrating this day of his birth with great joy, for before anyone else he recognized the everlasting light of heaven which was going to dispel the darkness of the world, and he was the first to point it out.
Sermon 57: PL 57, 647-48
**From Saint Louis University