Friday, December 19, 2008

Parallel lives

While not entirely parallel in their lives, Samson and John the Baptist are presented in parallel manner in their births, which we hear about in today's liturgy.
They share certain exterior characteristics: both are the subject of angelic annunciations; both are conceived by previously barren women; both are consecrated to God under the "nazirite" vow (no liquor; no haircuts).
Interiorly, too, they have a certain similarity: both experience the presence of the Spirit of God early on (John "even from his mother's womb").
And both have a similar mission: not to carry out great accomplishments for the Lord, but to "begin" something. Samson was to "begin" the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines, not bring it about. John was to "prepare" the people for the Lord's coming.

Icons of St. John the Baptist can be pretty interesting all by themselves. In classic western art, John resembles his cousin Jesus so much that the only way you can tell them apart is John's Tarzan-like attire, or the action in the painting. In Eastern icons, John looks like a hairy (and very skinny, at least generally--see the ribs?) wild man--even in Heaven!

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