Sunday, June 24, 2007

"He must increase: But I Must Decrease!" (John 3:30)

Today's the Birthday of St. John the Baptist :)

Here's something from Alone with God, a meditation on St. John the Precursor, I love especially this that St. John said: "He must increase; but I must decrease." - John 3:30.

Alone with God
By Fr. J. Heyrmann S.J.

June 24

1. Holy Church celebrates three birthdays: the birthday of Jesus, the All-Holy, the birthday of His Holy Mother conceived without sin, whose soul never knew spot or stain; lastly of St. John the Precursor, who was sanctified before birth, by the presence of Jesus in His Mother’s womb. Jesus Himself bore witness that “there hath not risen among those who were born of women a greater than John the Baptist” (Mt. 11:11).

2. Petition: The grace to understand and to admire the greatness of John the Baptist. May we learn from him, by our whole life, to bear witness to Christ and to bring souls to Jesus.

I. The Forerunner

When John was born, his father Zachary, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, had spoken in prophecy, “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways” (Luke 1:76).

“And the child grew and was strengthened in spirit, and was in the deserts until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80). This was the hidden life of John, in the manner of the ancient prophets: in the silence and solitude of the desert he communed with the Holy Ghost in preparation for the task that lay ahead. Some months before Jesus left Nazareth to begin His public ministry, John, emerging from solitude, had appeared on the banks of the Jordan, “in the spirit and power of Elias” (Luke 1:17). The people’s response was wonderful: crowds heard his message, disciples gathered around him, and his influence was overwhelming. Had he but spoken the word, they would there and then have proclaimed him Messiah. But that word he would not speak. He said, “I am not the Christ” (John 2:20) but I am sent before him. “There shall come on, mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to loose” (Luke 3:16).

John did more than merely announce the coming of the Messiah; at the Jordan, he saw Him coming; enlightened by the Spirit, he recognized Him, and bore testimony to Him, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world. (Ecce Agnus Dei, Ecce qui tollis peccata mundi) This is he of whom I spoke … The next day again John stood, and two of his disciples, And beholding Jesus walking he said, Behold the Lamb of God. And the two disciples heard him speak; and they followed Jesus” (John 1: 29-37).

The Baptist placed all his great authority, all he had and all he was, at the service of Jesus: a model of self-denial and self-sacrifice. How great he is in his humility! So all those must act whose vocation it is to bear testimony to Christ.

II. The Friend of the Bridegroom

This is another title which St. John gives himself, and which makes us penetrate deeper into his soul. When Jesus, helped by the testimony of the Baptist, was gradually establishing His authority and was gathering disciples, some of John’s followers felt piqued. “They came to John and said to him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou gavest testimony: behold, he baptiseth (probably not Jesus Himself, but some of His disciples) and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man cannot receive anything unless it be give to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth with joy because of the bridegroom’s voice. This my joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3: 26-29). According to Jewish usage the friend of the bridegroom had the duty of preparing everything for the wedding feast; but as soon as the bridegrrom appeared, the friend disappeared, rejoicing over the bridegroom’s happiness. We may regard this pleasing feature as a reflection, cast on the austere countenance of the Baptist by “the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour” (Tit. 3:4) which here begins to manifest itself.

III. “He Must Increase: But I Must Decrease”

With these words John concluded his testimony, “He must increase: but I must decrease.” We feel how these words spring from the very depths of his heart. We know what a tragic fate is in store for him; to please the whims of a dancing girl, a voluptuous tyrant will have John’s head cut off in a dark dungeon. Was it thus that he had to decrease, to disappear utterly from before the eyes of the people and of his own disciples, in order that he might help Jesus to increase and to enjoy greater freedom of action? … Fod is wonderful in His Saints, and in the dispositions of His Providence. Many a time here on earth we see the vilest passions triumph over the noblest and fairest virtue: but “the just shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus” (Ps. 91:13).

Prayer: O God, who hast made this, the birthday of Blessed John, a day well worthy of our honour: grant unto Thy people the grace of spiritual joy, and direct the minds of all the faithful into the way of everlasting salvation. Through our Lord (Collect, Mass of today).

Faith of Our Fathers: (Beautiful hymn, we sang today at Mass :))

(via the Blue Traditional Roman Hymnal published by the SSPX, page 214)

Faith of our Fathers I

1. Faith of Our Fathers, living still,

In spite of dungeon fire and sword;

O how our hearts beat high with joy

When e'er we hear that glorious word!

Faith of Our Fathers, Holy Faith! We will be true to thee till death!

2. Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,

Were still in heart and conscience free;

How sweet would be their children's fate,

If they like them could die for thee!

3. Faith of our Fathers, Mary's pray'rs

Shall bring our country close to thee;

And through the truth that comes from God

This land shall then indeed be free.

4. Faith of our Fathers, We will love

Both friend and foe in all our strife;

And preach thee too,

as love knows how,

By kindly words and virtuous life.

Jesus, Mary, I love Thee: Save Souls!

Jesu mitis et humilis corde, Fac cor nostrum secundum Cor tuum. (ter)

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