One of the beautiful things about the liturgical year is the way the mysteries of faith are tied together, especially with the feasts of Mary, John the Baptist, and Jesus. Theirs are the only births celebrated as feasts, since it’s the days of death (and hence new life) of the saints that are generally celebrated. But so important are their births that even the dates of their conceptions are remembered!
Hence the Immaculate Conception of Mary is December 8th, and her birth (nine months later) is September 8th. The ancient date of the conception of Jesus (the Annunciation) was set on March 25th, which of course was a perfect nine months before December 25th.
The conception of John the Baptist was once commemorated on September 24th, which brings us to today’s (June 24th) feast of his birth, so treasured that it actually pre-empts today’s 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Think about it: Luke (1:26,27) says that Elizabeth was six months pregnant the day that Jesus was conceived. He goes on to tell us that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months before John’s birth. That means Mary was three months pregnant when John was born. So if the Nativity of Jesus is December 25th (when the days begin to grow longer), then John’s birth was six months earlier (June 24th) when the days begin to gradually get shorter.
That I may decrease, and He may increase, John said. Just like the days ahead, as they oh-so-gradually decrease and, like the Baptist, point the way to the birth of the Invincible Son, in whom there is no darkness at all.
What graces do you feel during these long summer days?
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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).