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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

Blessing of Fire on the Vigil of St. John the Baptist

Fr. Scott Haynes

On the Vigil of the Feast of St. John the Baptist (June 23), there is a blessing it the Rituale Romanum for the blessing of fire. As the Precursor of the Lord, St. John the Baptist was a man set aflame by the Holy Ghost. Like a furnace, his heart burned with zeal for the Lord of Hosts. He feared no man, not even to save his own neck. Consider his reproach of the incestuous King Herod. St. John the Baptist called all men to the spirit of penance and conversion. "Repent and be baptized!" St. John the Baptist lightened the way for the Messiah like a blazing torch. What better way to commemorate this zealous prophet than with a roaring fire?

Thus, on the night before the Feast of St. John the Baptist, Holy Mother Church keeps the tradition of building a fire and keeping the night watch. As the official Catholic start to summer, at the longest day of the year, we recall St. John’s declaration:

“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Like the Catholics of years gone past, we gather with family and friends and remember the words of Our Savior:

“Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is the lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11).

On this night, let us implore the intercession of St. John the Baptist and heed the timeless wisdom of his voice. Let us repent of our sins and make straight the path for the Lord by removing every obstacle of sin that impedes His coming.

In the Rituale Romanum, the priest blesses the vigil fire, using one of the most ancient prayers of the Ritual.

English Translation

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.

P: The Lord be with you.

All: And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

Lord God, almighty Father, the light that never fails and the source of all light, sanctify + this new fire, and grant that after the darkness of this life we may come unsullied to you who are light eternal; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

The fire is sprinkled with holy water; after which the clergy

and the people sing the following in honor of St. John the Baptist.

HymnUt queant laxis

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1. O for your spirit, holy John, to chasten lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen; so by your children might your deeds of wonder meetly be chanted. (Ut queant laxis resonáre fibrisMira gestórum fámuli tuórum,Solve pollúti lábii reátum, Sancte Joánnes.)

2. Lo! a swift herald, from the skies descending, bears to your father promise of your greatness;How he shall name you, what your future story, duly revealing. (Núntius celso véniens Olýmpo Te patri magnum fore nascitúrum, Nomen, et vitae sériem geréndaeOrdinae promit.)

3. Scarcely believing message so transcendent, him for a season power of speech forsaketh,Till, at your wondrous birth, again returneth, voice to the voiceless. (Ille promíssi dúbius supérni, pérdidit promptae módulos loquélae: sed reformásti genitus perémptae organa vocis.)

4. You, in your mother’s womb all darkly cradled, knew your great Monarch, biding in His chamber, whence the two parents, through their offspring’s merits, mysteries uttered. (Ventris obstrúso récubans cubíli sénseras Regem thálamo manéntem: hinc parens nati méritis utérque abdita pandit.)

5. Praise to the Father, to the Son begotten, and to the Spirit, equal power possessing, one God whose glory, through the lapse of ages, ever resounding. Amen. (Sit decus Patri, genitaéque Proliet tibi, compare utriúsque virtus, Spíritus semper, Deus unus, omni Témporis aevo. Amen.)

P: There was a man sent from God.

All: Whose name was John.

P: Let us pray. God, who by reason of the birth of blessed John have made this day praiseworthy, give your people the grace of spiritual joy, and keep the hearts of your faithful fixed on the way that leads to everlasting salvation; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.


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