Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Birth of St John the Baptist

Tomorrow is the Solemnity (ie top rank feast) of the Birth of St John the Baptist, his main feastday. Besides Our Lady, he is the only saint to have his day of birth as a feast. As we know, his mother Elizabeth was already six months pregnant so the feast comes six months ahead of Christmas. Although the day with longest sunlight was the 21st June, traditionally it was the 24th that was celebrated as Midsummers Day. It was one of the four quarter days in the year too.

Talking of the past, in the Middle Ages especially, relics of saints and even Our Lady and Our Lord multiplied to an extraordinary degree. It seems there were at least three heads of St John the Baptist around. One was in the church of San Silvestro in Rome. The parish priest there when I was in seminary was a bit of a joker. If questioned about these three heads, which was the genuine one, was it his head of the saint, etc. he would say that his was when John the Baptist was a little younger!

So here's a painting by Mengs of the saint at his slightly scary best. Menwhile, we will be streaming Mass for the feast tomorrow at 7.30 in the evening.

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