The Birthday of the Bridegroom's Friend

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Today is the birthday of the Bridegroom’s friend:
an inbreaking of joy,
wild joy, reckless joy, heaven-sent joy.
the joy of a divine surprise.
A baby boy has come into the world.
“His name is John” (Lk 1:63).
Nothing will ever again be the same.

Elizabeth, having already faded into old age, flowers and bears fruit.
All the neighbours talked.
Our God is the Lord of the impossible.
Our God is astonishing,
amazing in all that he does.
He gives hope to the hopeless,
sends his mercy like a river into every dry and barren wasteland,
and fills the womb of one long past childbearing
with the energy of a infant kicking
and leaping for joy.

Zechariah astonished, loses his speech,
and regains it in a flood of praise.
Zechariah’s canticle: a priestly prayer of blessing
rising to meet the Dayspring that rises over the darkness.
Dazzling Dayspring dealing death to death,
giving light to those who sit in darkness!
Rays of mercy kissing every uplifted face,
beams of brightness for uncertain steps,
and in every heart long chilled by fear
a strange and wondrous warming.

The smell of incense hangs about Zechariah:
the fragrance of the Temple.
In his eyes one sees the glimmer of what he saw:
Gabriel who stands in the presence of God.
The vision of an angel is something not erased.
It leaves one with a perpetual look of surprise.
It causes one to utter blessings
and, at every moment, to break into bits of eucharistic song.
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel!”

The Church finds nothing better than to repeat
Zechariah’s canticle
day after day, morning after morning,
making it her unchanging sunrise Gospel,
her preparation for the Great Thanksgiving:
the tender mercy of God
given for our eating and drinking
in the Holy Bread and in the Precious Chalice.
The brightness that rises like the dawn
over every altar.

John is here today.
He is present at every advent of the Word.
He was there when first the Word came.
He is there when the Word comes
uttered in the syllables of poor human language
and veiled by bread and wine.
He is there at every secret advent of the Word:
the visitations of which we dare not speak,
lest in disclosing them
we lose something of their healing virtue.

He will be there when,
at the end of time the Word returns,
all-glorious,
to judge the living and the dead.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel
who has made John indispensable
for Israel,
for us,
for the Church.
To each of you today,
Mother Church wishes nothing less
than the joy of John.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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