Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. The reading is from Gospel of Luke 1:57-80.

The Birth of John the Baptist by Tintoretto, c.1554

The Birth and Circumcision of John the Baptist – Luke 1:57-66,80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.

Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.

When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply,

“No. He will be called John.”

But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”

So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.

He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.

Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.

Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Above all, the birth and circumcision of John emphasize his incorporation into the people of Israel by the sign of the covenant.

Covenant of Circumcision – Genesis 17:1–14

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said: I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless.

Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.

Abram fell face down and God said to him:

For my part, here is my covenant with you: you are to become the father of a multitude of nations.

No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations.

I will make you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings will stem from you.

I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now residing as aliens, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.

God said to Abraham: For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.

This is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.

Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin. That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.

Throughout the ages, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised, including houseborn slaves and those acquired with money from any foreigner who is not of your descendants.

Yes, both the houseborn slaves and those acquired with money must be circumcised. Thus my covenant will be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant.

If a male is uncircumcised, that is, if the flesh of his foreskin has not been cut away, such a one will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.

The narrative of John’s circumcision by Luke also prepares the way for the subsequent description of the circumcision of Jesus.

  • When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21)

At the beginning of his two-volume work, Luke the Evangelist, traditionally identified as the author of the Acts of the Apostles, shows the fact that those who play crucial roles in the inauguration of Christianity to be wholly a part of the people of Israel.

  • They praised God when they heard it but said to him, “Brother, you see how many thousands of believers there are from among the Jews, and they are all zealous observers of the law. (Acts 21:20)
  • “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. “(Acts 22:3)
  • Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees, so he called out before the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees; [I] am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the group became divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all three. A great uproar occurred, and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party stood up and sharply argued, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” (Acts 23:6–9)
  • But this I do admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors and I believe everything that is in accordance with the law and written in the prophets. I have the same hope in God as they themselves have that there will be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous. Because of this, I always strive to keep my conscience clear before God and man. (Acts 24:14–16)
  • “I count myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am to defend myself before you today against all the charges made against me by the Jews, especially since you are an expert in all the Jewish customs and controversies. And therefore I beg you to listen patiently. My manner of living from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my people and in Jerusalem, all [the] Jews know. They have known about me from the start, if they are willing to testify, that I have lived my life as a Pharisee, the strictest party of our religion. But now I am standing trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors. Our twelve tribes hope to attain to that promise as they fervently worship God day and night; and on account of this hope I am accused by Jews, O king. Why is it thought unbelievable among you that God raises the dead? (Acts 26:2–8)
  • But I have enjoyed God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here testifying to small and great alike, saying nothing different from what the prophets and Moses foretold, that the Messiah must suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:22–23)

At the end of the Acts of the Apostles he will argue that Christianity is the direct descendant of Pharisaic Judaism.

The practice of Palestinian Judaism at the time of Jesus time was to name the child at birth. Naming a male child after the father is not completely unknown.

  • When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, (Lule 1:59)

But the usual practice was to name the child after the grandfather.

  • But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” (Lule 1:61)

The naming of the child John and Zechariah’s recovery from his loss of speech should be understood as fulfilling the angel’s announcement to Zechariah.

  • But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. (Luke 1:13)
  • But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”  (Luke 1:20)

The Canticle of Zechariah – Luke 1:67-79

Then Zechariah his father, filled with the holy Spirit, prophesied, saying:

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.

He has raised up a horn for our salvation
within the house of David his servant,
even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old:

salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.

Like the canticle of Mary (Luke 1:46–55) the canticle of Zechariah is also loosely connected with its context. Apart from,

  • And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, (Luke 1:76–77)

the hymn in speaking of a horn for our salvation

  • He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, (Luke 1:69)

and the daybreak from on high

  • because of the tender mercy of our Gods by which the daybreak from on high will visit us (Luke 1:78)

applies more closely to Jesus and his work than to John.

Again like the canticle of Mary, the canticle of Zechariah is largely composed of phrases taken from the Greek Old Testament and may have been a Jewish Christian hymn of praise that Luke adapted to fit the present context by inserting

  • And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, (Luke 1:76–77)

to give Zechariah’s reply to the question

  • All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. (Luke 1:66)

Horn

In the verse

  • He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, (Luke 1:69)

the horn is a common Old Testament concrete noun for an abstract quality; figure for strength, the symbol for vitality and honour, the weapon of a bull and the symbol of fertility.

The word, “horn” is applied to God in Psalms

  • He said: I love you, LORD, my strength, LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold! (Psalms 18:2-3)

and here transferred to Jesus.

Also in Psalms we have many instances where the word “horn” used.

  • So I say to the boastful: “Do not boast!” to the wicked: “Do not raise your horns! Do not raise your horns against heaven! Do not speak with a stiff neck!” (Psalms 75:5–6)
  • You are their majestic strength; by your favor our horn is exalted. (Psalms 89:18)
  • Lavishly he gives to the poor; his righteousness shall endure forever; his horn shall be exalted in honor. (Psalms 112:9)
  • He has lifted high the horn of his people; to the praise of all his faithful, the Israelites, the people near to him. Hallelujah!(Psalms 148:14)

The connection of the phrase “within the house of David his servant” in Luke 1:69 gives the title “his servant” a messianic overtone and may indicate an allusion to the phrase “the horn of his anointed” in Hannah’s song of praise

  • The LORD’s foes shall be shattered; the Most High in heaven thunders; the LORD judges the ends of the earth. May he give strength to his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed!” (1 Samuel 2:10)

The word “Lord” in the phrase “for you will go before the Lord” in

  • And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, (Luke 1:76)

is most likely a reference to Jesus. Contrast this with

“for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:15–17)

where Yahweh is meant and John is presented as the forerunner of Jesus.

RELATED ARTICLES
The Canticle of Mary (tvaraj2inspirations.wordpress.com)
Add this anywhere
Enhanced by Zemanta