O Lord Thou shalt open my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Best Man's Job is to Evangelize

Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist - I Class
Missa De ventre matris

Epistle: Is. 49:1-3,5,6,7 [St. John was called from the womb.]
Gospel: Lk. 1:57-68 [The birth of St. John the Baptist.]
Full Latin-English propers here.

Every now and then, two feasts that go together very well fall next to each other. The Church calendar has a way of doing things like that. Yesterday, on Corpus Christi, we celebrated the Agnus Dei and today we celebrate the man who said, "Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi." Christ is the Nymphios (Bridegroom) and the Holy Eucharist is the intimacy between He and His Bride. St. John the Baptist is the best man at this Holy Wedding.

Now, what does a best man do? He is a witness to the marital union. What does St. John the Baptist do for Christ the Bridegroom? He likewise bears witness to this union. He is the one who said, "Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who taketh away the sin of the world." He is the one who goes "before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways: to give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins." This union between Christ and His Bride is needed because of the sin of the Bride. It is a response to her sin. The Bride was united to her Lord, but that union was destroyed by her sin. So the Bridegroom's instrument for re-uniting Himself with His Bride must be imbued with the power to take away her sins. That then requires the Sacrifice of Calvary, which is made present through the Seven Sacraments. The Sacraments re-establish that union and it is in the Holy Eucharist that the union of Christ and His Bride is consummated.

St. John the Forerunner then is the one who proclaims this union. His duty is one of evangelization: he goes on announcing the coming of the Bridegroom. He doesn't use just any title for the Bridegroom, but the title "Lamb of God". Christ is the Lamb of the Sacrifice of Calvary, which destroys the sins of the Bride. That same Sacrifice is made present to her in the Eucharist. So the Eucharist is called the "Lamb of God" and it is that same Communion that is the intimacy between her and her Bridegroom. This is what St. John the Forerunner bears witness to. He proclaims this coming of the Lamb to be with His Bride and that same union, because it is the Sacrifice of Calvary, takes away her sins. This is what St. John is best known for. He is repeatedly referred to in Sacred Scripture as the one announcing the coming of the Lord for the forgiveness of sins. The accounts of him in the desert and also the Benedictus, which the Church chants so solemnly today at Lauds, all focus on St. John's duty to proclaim the coming of the Lamb to take away the sins of the Church, to proclaim the coming of the Bridegroom to re-establish His relationship with His Bride.