St. John the Baptist was a contemporary of our Lord who was known for preparing the way for Jesus Christ, and for baptizing Him. John was born through an act of God to Zachariah and Elizabeth, who was otherwise too old to bear children. According to the scriptures, the Angel Gabriel visited Zachariah to tell them they would have a son and that they should name him John. Zachariah was skeptical and for this he was rendered mute until the time his son was born and named John, in fulfillment of God's will.
The fact that our Lord Jesus Christ praised St. John the Baptist so highly, saying that among those born of women there was none greater, encouraged a special veneration, and so we find a regular cycle of feasts in his honour among the early Christian churches.
It was the firm belief among the faithful from the time of the early Church that John was freed from original sin at the moment when his mother met the Blessed Virgin, when the child "leaped in the womb" of St. Elizabeth. Saint Augustine mentioned this belief as a general tradition in the ancient Church, establishing that he was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb" and, therefore, was born without original sin. Accordingly, the Church celebrates his natural birth by a festival of his "nativity," assigned some six months before the nativity of Christ, since John was six months older than the Lord.
Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant Saint John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour, by preaching of repentance: make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.