St. John the Baptist
AND it came to pass when he executed his priestly function-there appeared to him an angel of the Lord-who said to him "Fear not Zachary, for thy prayer is heard and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John;-and many shall rejoice in his nativity.
For he shall be great before the Lord; and shall drink no wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb.
And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord, their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and the power of Elias; that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people. This angelic prophecy to Zachary describes his son, St. John the Baptist.
In the mural we see him as the Forerunner of the Messias, preparing His way among the Israelites. The precursor is wearing his garment of camel's hair and a leathern girdle about his loins. He had come from the desert for his manifestation to Israel into the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins. While he worked no miracles, he suffered martyrdom, for Herod had him put to death, by beheading, because he reproached the tetrach for the evils he had done.
St. John is here depicted as enlightening them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, directing them into the way of peace with the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. For behold the Messias shall come after me "the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose". St. John was beloved for himself, but he realized that he grew and was strengthened in spirit for one glorious mission only, a special divine mission of baptizing with water and preaching austerity, prayer and penance in preparation for the coming of the Saviour.
Though penance is the ideal depicted in the mural and while strength and the spirit of temperance abound in its character, there is something too, of a song of spring, in an exquisite design of lines and spaces conveyed by the branches, the rivulet, the faces of youth, the tender coloring, the sweet asceticism of the young saint and the old men turning to him or to the children. In this mural we are close to perfect beauty, in a dematerialized region where thought and feeling seem brought to life without tangible means.