The birth of John the Baptist was one of the earliest feasts to be named to a particular day on the Church calendar. June 24 was chosen as it is six months before the birth of Christ. With its proximity to the summer solstice, it signifies the waning of the light, while the birth of Jesus near the winter solstice marks the coming of the light. When John was born, his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, called him John in accordance with an angel’s instruction. In disbelief that they would have a son, Zechariah asked for a sign and was made mute, but with the giving of the name, his speech was restored. Luke records that he responded with the Benedictus, the great hymn of love and thanksgiving still recited in the liturgy of the hours.

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