HOMILY: The Nativity Of Saint John The Baptist, by Hildegard of Bingen

Homily 41

The time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.  And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had magnified his great mercy for her, and they rejoiced with her.  And it happened on the eighth day that they came to circumcise the boy, and they were going to name him after his father, Zechariah.  But his mother, responding, said, “By no means; he shall be called John.”  And they said to her: “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.”  Then they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would want him to be called.  And asking for a writing tablet, he wrote down, “His name is John.”  And they all marveled.

Then instantly his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.  And fear came upon all their neighbors.  And through all the hill country of Judea all these words were divulged.  And all who heard them consigned them within their hearts, saying: “Who do you suppose this child will be?”  For the hand of the Lord was with him.  Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.” (Luke 1:57-68)

The time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.  The desire to do good deeds came to completion for Abel, Noah, and Enoch, and the other righteous ones who existed before the law, and it produced circumcision, the first sign of holiness.

And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had magnified his great mercy for her, and they rejoiced with her.  Those who were not her kin, but were nonetheless close together in the good, as well as those bound by the same family heard that God in this newness praised the sign of holiness among earlier holy ones; and they rejoiced in the righteousness that was given to them in circumcision.

And it happened on the eighth day that they came to circumcise the boy, and they called him after his father, Zechariah.  A great sacrament arose from circumcision by means of the Lord’s incarnation; those who were in the law wanted to confer the Old Law on him by the circumcision of the Old Law, because they wanted him to have it, as did any man born from man and woman.

But his mother, responding, said: By no means; he shall be called John.  The old righteousness, which existed before the law, exhorted: By no means will he be called circumcised; he shall be called “the gift of a giving God.”  And they said to her: “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.”  And they in the ancient law said to those who existed before the law: “We find no one in the holiness by which you were sanctified and by which we were sanctified who is called by this name of new grace.”

Then they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would want him to be called.  They searched the prophecy that was in the Old Law for what the cause of the Lord’s incarnation would be.  And asking for a writing tablet, he wrote down: “His name is John.”  And they all marveled.  Seeking all the intricacies of the Scriptures, they discovered that his name would be the gift of humankind’s salvation.  In amazement, every creature became amazed by these things.  Then instantly his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.  The manifestation of prophecy was unlocked, and the righteousness of the church, and he spoke, praising God in human form.

And fear came over all their neighbors, and through all the hill country of Judea all these words were divulged.  All born from human beings were amazed and trembled; over the height of the old institution all these words were led around like a wheel, as far as they could understand them.  And all who heard about them consigned them in their hearts, saying: “Who do you suppose this child will be?”  And all who heard with good intention consigned the new perceptions and understandings in the new law in their hearts with good desires, saying: “Who do you suppose this child will be in the new law, since he is not from the world?”  For the hand of the Lord was with him.  For God’s power and work was with him in miracles.

Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.”  The prophecy that had been in the Old Law was filled with the Holy Spirit, like a balsam tree producing sap in truth, and it said in true revelation: Blessed be the lord God in the holiness of true circumcision, for he has visited and redeemed the church with his body in refreshment and fullness.

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