The day of the death of other saints is kept as their feast, and in the case of St. John the Baptist the day of his birth is celebrated, as having taken place amidst the outpouring of gifts of the Paraclete. The feast is celebrated with great liturgical splendor, the stational Mass was celebrated in the Basilica of the Saviour.
This grandeur of early devotion to the Baptist need cause no one to wonder, if we realize the eminent position which St. John holds in the history of the Incarnation. His seal of canonization is seen in the eulogy addressed to him by the Word of God Himself made man, when He pointed out to the people as the greatest among the prophets, and among all those born of woman, the new Elias, the burning and shining light.
Many churches and oratories were dedicated to him; at one time three Masses were celebrated in his honor. When Pope Benedict XIV examined the question of the precedence over St. Joseph given to St. John in the Litany of the Saints, it was not considered opportune to decide how the passage in the Gospel (Matth. 11,11) “among those born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist,” was to be understood. Now that devotion to St. Joseph has thrown so much light on his person, it is clear that the primacy accorded to St. John is to be understood of his prophetic and Messianic mission. He surpassed in dignity and in sanctity all the patriarchs, prophets and saints who announce and prepare the way for the New Testament. St. Joseph belongs to another period. He enters into the divine plan, not as a prophet, but as a part of the plan of the Incarnation itself. He introduces and presents Jesus with all honor to the world as the heir of the Messianic promises. Mary and Joseph have transcendent dignity; this in no way detracts from the glory of St. John whose praise is sung in the liturgical hymns. Our musical scale took its names (Do, re, mi) from the ascending tones of the Vesper hymn of St. John. (Source: The New Roman Missal by Father Lasance)