What child is this?

There is a pious tradition reckoning the feast of Saint John the Baptist as the Summer Christmas. It is, after all, the liturgical feast of the earthly birth of the Precursor of the Lord, Whose proper birth is celebrated six months later, a celebration the Anglosphere calls Christmas. These two and the earthly birth of the Blessed Virgin are the only earthly births the Church celebrates. All other birthdays are heavenly birthdays, coinciding with the martyrdom or the death of a saint.

Gentileschi - Nacimiento de san Juan Bautista
Nascita di San Giovanni BattistaArtemisia Gentileschi | 1633–1635
Bouguereau - La Vierge, l'enfant Jésus et Saint Jean-Baptiste
La Vierge, l’enfant Jésus et Saint Jean-Baptiste | William Adolphe Bouguereau | 1882

That the birth of Saint John the Baptist has a summer character to it has to be underscored as well, because of its scriptural significance. The summer solstice usually falls on 21 June, and after this occurrence, we usually notice the days shortening. The shortest day, that is, the longest night, usually falls within the period of the misas de aguinaldo, and the days will begin to lengthen again after the winter solstice, which usually falls on 21 December. Indeed, even the arrangement of the season reflects the relationship between the Lord and His Precursor. Oportet illum crescere, me autem minui, so saith Saint John.

What child is thisAnd so, today we prepare to celebrate this year’s Johnmass (which forms a triad with Christmas and Ladymass). Compared to Christmas, the feast of Saint John has not been blessed with a vast repertoire of hymns, either in Latin or in the vernacular, even if its vespers hymn is the basis of nomenclature in solfege. Years ago, therefore, we decided to appoint alternative lyrics to one the many tunes associated with Christmas, Greensleeves, which carries the Christmas title What child is this? This Johannine parallel (click the thumbnail to open the file), likewise, uses this same title, having taken the strange opportunity of commemorating in one carol the only three who were born with no original sin: Christ our Lord was sinless; Mary was conceived without original sin; the Lord sanctified Saint John while still in the womb.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

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