St Augustine of AfricaOutside the most holy Birthday of the Lord, we find celebrated in the Gospel the birth of only one other, namely, that of the blessed Baptist, John.

As regards all others among God’s holy and chosen ones we know that that day is observed whereon, with their work finished, and the world conquered and finally trampled down, they were born from this into a better life, even one of everlasting blessedness.

In others is honoured the crowning of the struggle on their last day of dying life, but in John is honoured the first day; in him the very beginning is found hallowed.

And the reason of this is, without doubt, because he was sent from God to bear witness to the coming of the Light, lest when It came It might take the darkness by surprise, and the darkness might not comprehend It.

Now, John was a figure of the Old Testament, and showed in his own person a typical embodiment of the Law; and therefore John heralded beforehand the coming of the Saviour, even as the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to the grace of Christ (Gal. 3:24).

But as touching this, that he prophesied while yet in the hidden depths of his mother’s womb, and while himself lightless bore testimony to the truth, we are to understand it as a figure.

While himself wrapped round with the veil and carnal ordinances of the letter, John by the Spirit preached unto the world a Redeemer.

And he testified that Jesus is our Lord even while for himself, working under the law, the birth of the new dispensation was still in the womb of the future, and not come to day.

[…] John came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe (John 1:7).

When John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples (Matth. 11:2). This is the Law sending to the Gospel.

For John here was a figure of the Law, imprisoned in ignorance, lying in the dark, and in a hidden place, and he was fettered through misunderstanding within the bonds of the letter.

Of him was it said that he was a burning and a shining light. When the whole world was wrapt in the night of ignorance, this Saint was kindled by the fire of the Holy Spirit.

He showed before men the light of salvation, and at the hour of the thickest darkness of sin, appeared like a bright morning star to herald the rising of that Sun so right gloriously radiant, the Son of righteousness, Christ our Lord.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430:  Sermon 20 on the Feasts of the Saints in the Old Breviary.