The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist - Solemnity
"He must increase; I must decrease" (Jn 3,30)
The births and then the Passions of John and Jesus have marked out their differences. For John was born as daylight began to fade; Christ as day started to dawn. For the former, day’s diminishment is the symbol of his violent death. Its increase in the latter’s case, his lifting up on the cross.
There is also a secret meaning the Lord reveals… with regard to John’s saying about Jesus : “He must increase, I must decrease.” All human righteousness… had been consummated in John; of him Truth said: “Among those born of women none has risen greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11,11). No man, therefore, could overtake him yet he was only a man. Now, in our Christian dispensation, we are asked not to boast in man but “whoever boasts should boast in the Lord” (2Cor 10,17): man, in his God; servant, in his master. That is why John exclaimed: “He must grow greater, I must grow less.” Of course, God is neither diminished not increased in himself, but where we humans are concerned, insofar as genuine fervor makes headway, divine grace grows greater and human will grows less until God’s home in all Christ’s members reaches its fulfillment where every tyranny and authority and power are dead and God is all in all (Col 3,11).
John the Evangelist says: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (1,9); but John the Baptist says: “From his fullness we have all received” (1,16). While the light, which in itself is always total, nevertheless increases in the one illuminated by it, it is diminished in itself when what is without God is extinguished within it. For a person without God can do nothing except sin but his human power grows less when divine grace, sin’s destroyer, conquers. The weakness of the creature gives way to the Creator’s power and the vanity of our egotistical feelings crumbles before universal love, while John the Baptist, from the depth of our distress, cries out to us the mercy of Jesus Christ: “He must increase and I must decrease.”