Today (by the Roman Martyrology)* is the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.
It has also been named as another opinions release day by the Supreme Court this week.
I see a lot of people who seem convinced that today is the day we'll see Dobbs handed down. The question is whence these speculations arise? On the one hand, it could simply be guessing, in which case the person is, after all, playing fairly decent odds. For each opinion day that arrives with Dobbs not having been released, the odds of its release upon that day become statistically more likely. Poor at math as am I, yet even I can figure those numbers. On the other hand, some of the folks I see speculating might have even better reasons, because they are, some of them, a certain sort of people. That is, people who might know someone who knows someone who knows a clerk with whom yet another someone dined last night, and who at one point in the meal looked up over his glass of wine, raised his eyebrows, and heavily cleared his throat and either said no more or, more riskily, mentioned something vague about parking on the Hill. I mean, that sort of thing and this sort of person each have their precedents.
Then again, just because no release days have yet been scheduled for next week doesn't mean they can't be added ad hoc. That, too, has precedent. So all we can really do is wait and watch and see what we will see.
But I had mentioned Saint John the Baptist...
See, there are other characters to this story, beyond the judges and the clerks and the lawyers and the pundits and the activists and the prayer warriors and the protesters. There are the tens of millions lost to the travesty of abortion, voices never heard in this world but which I am convinced are heard before the One who sits upon his throne on high. There are others with them, myriads of myriads uncounted; there are the angels of these little ones, but also so many brothers and sisters who maybe like them never even began the running of the course of earthly life, or who ran it to varying lengths but ran it well. There is, singular and shining amongst all these, that peerless and wonderful Woman, the pinacle of creation, from whose womb we all have life abundant, because she bore Him who saves us. And very close to her in radiance and splendor, there he stands, St. John the Precursor, the Forerunner, the voice that one cried out in the wilderness but continues to cry out in every spiritual wilderness today, the same messages: repent, make straight the way of the Lord, and behold the Lamb of God.
I think this John, greatest of the prophets, has a special connection with all those little ones lost to abortion, and this connection is underscored by today's Feast. The Church only commemorates three Nativities among all the Saints. And ancient tradition holds that the reason for this is that there are three alone who have been born into this world already sanctified and washed clean of the stain of Original Sin: Christ Himself, whom no stain of sin could ever touch; Mary, who was preserved from the moment of her conception from this fate; and John, who at the moment of his closeness to the Mother of God and in hearing her word, was granted the gift of the Holy Spirit, and leapt in praise within Elizabeth's womb just as David danced before the Ark. His witnessing to the Messiah began even before birth; and in that same act he also became a witness to a truth our age has tried to ignore, that the babe unborn is a child known and loved already by God. John also bears this closeness to those brothers and sisters whose lives never even saw the light of this world: he was at once the greatest, and yet lesser than the least. His whole life and mission and purpose was untimely and yet, in God's providential plan, just for the right time. Like Moses before him, he died before seeing the fulfillment of what God had called him to do; just like all those children who never got to experience all that they might have in this life, and yet who we can firmly hope have been given recompense in the greater life to come.
So, it would indeed be fitting, in a cosmic and kaorotic way, if today be the day that all those prayers are answered, those prayers which those little ones have been offering unceasingly along with our more meager ones here below.
But, then again, and by the same token, maybe not. That is to say, God's ways are not our ways, and we can always afford to be reminded of this. And there would be an equal fittingness to God allowing us to wait just a little while longer, and be tested to hope and pray. John once again provides the model. He ended up in prison. Some Fathers of the Church maintained that when he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask whether he was the one foretold, it was for the benefit of those disciples and not John himself. But others have speculated, and I find myself in sympathy with this view, that maybe it was just as much for his own sake that John proffered the question. He'd spent his whole life laboring to prepare the moment. He'd seen and acknowledged Jesus. But it would only have been natural for him to have imagined and hoped for a different end for himself. Here he was, who had been called from the beginning, who had labored so hard and lived a life of such hard asceticism and witness, sparring with the Scribes and Pharisees and even the King, rotting in a jail cell, while the Messiah about whom he knew more than anyone else alive save one was out there hanging about with a bunch of ignorant fisherman and tax collectors and worse types yet. He, greatest born of woman, and yet now reduced to less than the least.
In his prayers from that cell, I can well imagine which particular psalms and lamentations he may have recalled most frequently, asking God essentially, "Seriously? What gives? How long, O Lord... how much longer?" I don't have trouble imagining that he sought consolation for himself in that moment, as well as for his disciples whom he surely loved; that he wanted a word from the Lord to remind him along with them, even though he could little understand the reason of it all, what Graham Greene called "the terrible strangeness of the mercy of God." He might even have struggled with a sort of jealousy of that beloved disciple of Jesus who maybe shared his name, that would be able to lie his head on our Lord's breast, while his own head was destined for a plate at the whim of a bratty child. And yet maybe, in God’s Providential plan, it was partly for this: that he would have that special closeness with those others whose earthly destiny seems so hard to fathom, who were cut short before taking a single breath, who might well ask God, “Why? How could this be even allowed in your will? How was I brought into being for this?”
Anyhow, whatever comes of today, there is every good reason to draw close to Saint John the Baptist and pray with him and in the spirit that motivated him: hope and anticipation, sorrow and lamentation, gazing toward Christ who alone can make sense of it all.
Mighty Forerunner, Voice of the Wilderness, Foil to the Wise and Mighty, Greatest and yet Least: Pray for us!