Catechism of the Catholic Church

132 Part One figures and symbols of the “First Covenant.” 195 He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming. 523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. 196 “Prophet of the Most High,” John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. 197 He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb wel- comes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom,” whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” 198 Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom. 199 524 When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. 200 By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must de­ crease.” 201 The Christmas mystery 525 Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family. 202 Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven’s glory was made manifest. 203 The Church never tires of singing the glory of this night: The Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal And the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible. The angels and shepherds praise him And the magi advance with the star, For you are born for us, Little Child, God eternal! 204 195 Heb 9:15. 196 Cf. Acts 13:24; Mt 3:3. 197 Lk 1:76; cf. 7:26; Mt 11:13. 198 Jn 1:29; cf. Acts 1:22; Lk 1:41; 16:16; Jn 3:29. 199 Lk 1:17; cf. Mk 6:17-29. 200 Cf. Rev 22:17. 201 Jn 3:30. 202 Cf. Lk 2:6-7. 203 Cf. Lk 2:8-20. 204 Kontakion of Romanos the Melodist. 717-720 1171 437 2443