THE great forerunner of the morn,
The herald of the Word, is born:
And faithful hearts shall never fail
With thanks and praise his light to hail.
With heavenly message Gabriel came,
That John should be that herald’s name,
And with prophetic utterance told
His actions great and manifold.
John, still unborn, yet gave aright
His witness to the coming Light;
And Christ, the Sun of all the earth,
Fulfilled that witness at His birth.
Of woman born shall never be
A greater prophet than was he,
Whose mighty deeds exalt his fame
To greater than a prophet’s name.
But why should mortal accents raise
The hymn of John the Baptist’s praise?
Of whom, or e’er his course was run,
Thus spake the Father to the Son?
“Behold, My herald, who shall go
Before Thy face Thy way to show,
And shine, as with the day-star’s gleam,
Before Thine own eternal beam.”
All praise to God the Father be,
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
Whom with the Spirit we adore
Forever and forevermore.
~St. Bede the Venerable: Praecursor altus luminis. (Tr. J. Neale)
Preaching of St. John the Baptist, by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Fresco, 1486-90; Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence.