Here is part of the account, as told by St Luke: ‘Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. And her neighbours and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her’.

The hymn traditionally sung for this feast, Ut Queant Laxis, was composed by an eighth century Benedictine monk of Monte Cassino, Paul the Deacon.

Here are some verses in English translation: ‘O for thy Spirit, Holy John, to chasten, Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen, So by thy children might thy deeds of wonder Meetly be chaunted. … Thou, in thy mother’s womb all darkly cradled, Knewest thy Monarch, biding in his chamber, Whence the two parents, through their children’s merits, Mysteries utter’d. … O may the virtue of thine intercession, All stony hardness from our hearts expelling, Smooth the rough places, and the crooked straighten Here in the desert’.

As we rejoice in the birth of John the Baptist, let us ask his intercession, that the rough places in our hearts may be smoothed, and the crooked straightened. May God bless you this day.