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Saint John the Baptist

Saint John the Baptist

Biography of Saint John the Baptist

Saint John the Baptist is a prominent figure in the New Testament, and like many biblical characters, his birth is a miracle. The Gospel of St. Luke records the events that accompanied the coming into the world of Christ, including the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner and Cousin of Jesus. John the Baptist was the son of Zechariah, a priest in the temple of Jerusalem, and Elizabeth, a cousin of the Virgin Mary. Saint Elizabeth's mother was Saint Anne's elder sister. Zechariah and Elizabeth were old and had no children because of Elizabeth's sterility. On a day when Zechariah was responsible for presenting the offerings to the Temple, the Angel Gabriel appeared to him, announcing the imminent birth of a son named John. "He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:5-25). Zechariah could not believe this announcement and was speechless, however Elisabeth was indeed pregnant. Six months later, the angel Gabriel came to announce to the Virgin Mary that she would be the mother of the Savior, the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38). During this coming, the archangel revealed to the Blessed Virgin the pregnancy of Elizabeth, and Mary immediately went to her cousin to do her a service and to rejoice with her in the wonders of the Lord. This is called the Visitation (Luke 1:39-56). When Mary, pregnant with Jesus, met Elizabeth, she exclaimed, "As soon as the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the child leapt with joy in my womb." Eight days after the birth, during the circumcision of the child, Elizabeth announced to general surprise that he would be called John, which means "God gives grace" Zechariah’s tongue was then untied, and he exclaimed "his name is John". Filled with the Holy Spirit, he proclaimed the famous Song of Zechariah.

Further on in the Gospel, we find John the Baptist, now an adult, living in the Judean desert, clothed in camel skin, feeding on grasshoppers and wild honey. John proclaimed the coming of Christ (Mark 1:7-8) and the crowds came to him. He baptized in the Jordan River, giving a baptism of conversion for the remission of sins. Although Jesus was the son of God, he came to be baptized by John (Matthew 3:15-17, Mark 1:10-11, Luke 3:22-33), the crowd saw the Spirit of God coming down on Jesus and heard the voice of the Father: “This is my beloved son who has all my favor.” Jesus testified to John, saying: "Among the children of women, there is not one greater than John the Baptist.

John does not hesitate to denounce the bad conduct of Herod, especially for having taken as wife Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had the Baptist imprisoned. As for Herodias, she had only one purpose, to have John killed. The occasion presented itself on a day when the daughter of Herodias, Salome, danced before Herod and his guests (Matthew 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-16; Luke 9:7-9). He liked her so much that he offered to give her anything she wanted. Having asked her mother for advice, Salome asked for John's head to be brought to her on a dish. Herod therefore sent for John to be beheaded in the prison and offered his head to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John's disciples then came to ask for his body to bury him.

On June 24th, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, three months after the Annunciation (since Elizabeth is now in her sixth month). The Church also celebrates the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist on August 29, the national day of Quebec, John-Baptiste being the patron saint of French Canadians.

Find other lives of contemporary saints of Jesus: Saint Mary Magdalene, Saint Peter, Saint John, Saint Matthew, etc.

Origin and significance of Saint John the Baptist

In the Christian religion, the place of Saint John the Baptist is very important, he is the precursor of Christ. It is he who is announced by the prophet Isaiah,Behold, I send my messenger before you, to prepare your way. The voice of one crying in the desert: "prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight!" Thus, John the Baptist is the last prophet before the coming of Christ, he prepares hearts to welcome Jesus. And when his mission was accomplished, when Jesus was known, John exclaimed: “This is my joy, and it is complete. He needs to grow up, and I need to descend. He who comes from above is above all. ”

In his Sermon on the Birth of John the Baptist, Saint Augustine clearly explains the special place that John the Baptist occupies: “John was born of a barren old woman. He was at the end of the Prophets. Christ was born of a young virgin. He is the future of God. The birth of John is met with unbelief, and his father became mute. Mary believed in the birth of Christ, and she begat him by faith.

Prayer to Saint John the Baptist by Saint Anselm of Canterbury

“Blessed John, you who baptized the Son of God,

you were filled with the Holy Spirit even before you were born.

And you recognized God before the world knew Him.

You recognized the Mother of your God before your mother greeted her.

Friend of God, intercede for us. Amen.”

Saint John the Baptist in the Arts

  • In painting, Saint John the Baptist is a favorite subject. Among the most famous performances are those of the Caravaggio and the work of Leonardo da Vinci. Saint John the Baptist is usually depicted as a hermit, dressed in animal skin, with the attributes of the cross and the lamb.
  • In music, the Anthem to Saint John the Baptist, beginning with Ut queant laxis was written in the ninth century by the poet Paul Diacre. The first stanza of this hymn was used in the 11th century by Gui d'Arezzo to give names to the musical notes.

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