Wednesday, June 24 - Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him so he received special veneration. Being the precursor of our Lord, he was accorded the same honor as the first great saints of the Christian era, although he belonged to the Old Covenant. Ordinarily the Church observes the day of a saint's death as his feast, because that day marks his entrance into heaven but it was the firm belief among the faithful that John was freed from original sin at the moment when his mother met the Blessed Virgin and was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb". It was St John, the last of the prophets who baptized Jesus at the place at the Jordan where the children of the Exodus were believed to have crossed over into the Promised Land. In the course of John's preaching, he criticized the immorality of King Herod's court, and of his marital situation with Herodias, his niece and the former wife of his half-brother, Philip. The infuriated Herodias plotted against his life and was able to trick Herod into beheading him.