John the Baptist is the son of the priest Zechariah and Elizabeth, a cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary. John was born six months before Jesus. Tradition places the home and birthplace of the Baptist six miles west of Jerusalem, where a Franciscan church marks the site.
What is known of this Saint is set down in Holy Scripture. He has always had a chief place in the veneration given by Holy Church to the heroic servants of God.
John is called the bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament, because he was raised in the Jewish tradition, underwent the same ritual of Mosaic circumcision, and was especially called to announce that “the God of Israel has visited His people.”
He was the new Elijah; he was the bearer of the news of preparation of the kingdom of redemption and grace. He was a witness, and he was to be more than a prophet, for he gave testimony with his blood—the death of martyrdom imposed upon him by Herod.
While the feast days of other saints are celebrated on the day of their death, the birthday of St. John the Baptist is his feast day. St. Augustine found June 24, which is near the summer solstice, appropriate for after the birth of John daylight begins to grow shorter, whereas, after the birth of Jesus daylight begins to grow longer.
The feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist dates from the Fourth Century in both the East and West. This feast is one of the oldest in the liturgy of the Church, which came to be celebrated in accord with Luke 1:36, six months before the Lord’s birth.
A memorial of his death is celebrated on August 29. (9:8)