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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

The Eastern and Western Churches remember the birth of John the Baptist, the "greatest of those born of women," who prepared the way for the Lord.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Luke 1, 57-66.80

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son;

and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had lavished on her his faithful love, they shared her joy.

Now it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,

but his mother spoke up. 'No,' she said, 'he is to be called John.'

They said to her, 'But no one in your family has that name,'

and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called.

The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, 'His name is John.' And they were all astonished.

At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God.

All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea.

All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. 'What will this child turn out to be?' they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit grew strong. And he lived in the desert until the day he appeared openly to Israel.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Church today celebrates the birth of John the Baptist. It is a very ancient feast of the Church. Together with Mary, John is the only saint whose birthday we remember. And this is because their lives are inexplicable without a reference to Jesus: they were born for Jesus, one in order to be mother, the other in order to prepare his way. In the Byzantine iconostasis they are represented next to the central door, Christ, in the act of inviting the faithful to turn their gaze toward Him. John was born to show humanity the way that leads to Jesus. He is revered in Islam, also: his relics are kept in the mosque of the Umayyad in Damascus. The evangelist narrates his birth in a way parallel to that of Jesus. The gaze of the Lord had come upon him too. The angel appears to Zechariah while he carries out his service in the temple and gives him the news of the birth of a son. The announcement is absolutely improbable, since his wife Elizabeth was already sterile. The angel insists and even suggests to Zechariah the name he should give the child: "You shall call him John" (i.e., "God is gracious"). The birth of the Baptist opens a new life for the two old parents, while all hopes seemed to vanish because of Elizabeth’s sterility. That son is the fruit of the angel’s word, and his name is totally new; we are all fruit of God’s love, no one of us has been born by chance. We have been born to be disciples of Jesus and to prepare the hearts of human beings to receive him.

Memory of Jesus crucified