My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
AN EXTEMPORANEOUS PRAYER TO SAINT JOHN THE FORERUNNER AND BAPTIST
O Prophet and Forerunner and Baptist of Jesus Christ, You who baptized in the Jordan River the One Who bore the sins of the world, You who saw the Holy Spirit and heard the voice of God the Father bearing witness, beseech the All-Holy Trinity and intercede for us who praise You.
May you, the herald of the grace of Christ pre-announcing repentance to all the nations, guide my unrepentant and hardened soul on the way to repentance.
May you, divine Forerunner, as a blossom of the most sacred root, cut off in me the roots of evil with the sacred axe of repentance, so that the passions may not choke my mind and my heart. On the contrary, O Baptist, plant in my soul faith, hope and love.
You, O Baptist, by becoming the mediator between the Old and New Covenant, mediate on my behalf who have grown old in sin, and renew all of me by interceding for me to the One Who makes all things new.
You, who traversed through the narrow gate of ascetic self-control, inspire me to follow this salutary way, for I am being drowned by earthly desires and passions.
You, who the lamp illuminating the way of those walking in the darkness of life, light up the lamp of my soul which has become extinguished because of neglect.
You, who are the sweet-singing swallow, pre-announcing the arrival of Spring, Christ our God, beseech Him to deliver us from the winter that destroys the soul.
You, who are the friend of the Bridegroom, make me worthy to acquire this Friend and to love Him with steadfast and unwavering resolve.
You, who extended your right hand and baptized in the waters the One who was Immaculate, extend now your hand upon me and cleanse through your intercessions.
You, who found yourself a prisoner for the sake of truth, dissolve the bonds of my difficulties and empower me to observe the venerable Commandments of Jesus Christ.
You, who are the voice of the Logos (Word), direct the voices of all those who honor you and pray to you so that forgiveness of sins may be granted to us through your intercession. Amen.
THE BEHEADING OF THE HOLY GLORIOUS PROPHET, FORERUNNER AND BAPTIST JOHN
Jesus said: "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (St. Matthew 11:11).
"But when Herod's birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, 'Give me John the Baptist's head here on a platter.' And the king was sorry; nevertheless because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. Then his disciples came and took away his body and buried it, and went and told Jesus." (St. Matthew 14:6-12)
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of Saint John the Forerunner. Second Tone.
The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord's testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner; for thou hast proved to be even more venerable than the Prophets, since thou was granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed. Wherefore, having contested for the Truth, thou didst rejoice to announce the good tidings even to those in Hades; that God hath appeared in the flesh, taking away the sin of the world and granting us great mercy.
Kontakion. Tone Five
The glorious beheading of the Forerunner became an act of divine dispensation, for he preached to those in hell the coming of the Savior. Let Herodias lament, for she entreated lawless murder, loving not the Law of God, nor Eternal life, but that which is false and temporal.
"According to Holy Tradition, the mouth of the dead preacher of repentance once more opened and proclaimed: 'Herod, you should not have the wife of your brother Philip.' Salome took the platter with the head of John and gave it to her mother. The frenzied Herodias repeatedly stabbed the tongue of the Prophet with a needle and buried his holy head (kara or κάρα) in an unclean place. But the pious Joanna, wife of Herod's steward Chuza, buried the head of Saint John the Baptist in an earthen vessel on the Mount of Olives, where Herod had a parcel of land. (The Uncovering of the Venerable Head is celebrated on February 24th). The holy body of Saint John the Baptist was taken that night by his disciples and buried at Sevastia, there where the wicked deed had been done."
After the murder of Saint John the Baptist, Herod continued to govern for a certain time. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, later sent Jesus Christ to hi, Whom he mocked (St. Luke 23:7-12).
The judgment of God came upon Herod, Herodias and Salome, even during their earthly life. Salome, crossing the River Sikoris I winter, fell through the ice. The ice gave way in such a way that her body was in the water, but her head was trapped above the ice. It was similar to how she once had danced with her feet upon the ground, but now she flailed helplessly in the icy water. Thus she was trapped until that time when the sharp ice cut through her neck. Her corps was not found, but they brought the head to Herod and Herodias, as once they had brought them the head of Saint John the Baptist. The Arab king Aretas, in revenge for the disrespect shown his daughter, made war against Herod. The defeated Herod suffered the wrath of the Roman Emperor Caius Caligua (37-41) and was exiled with Herodias firs to Gaul, and then to Spain.
The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, a 11:11Feast day established by the Church, is also a strict fast day because of the grief of Christians at the violent death of the Saint. In some Orthodox cultures pious Christians will not eat food from a flat plate, use a knife, or eat food that is round in shape on this day.
Saint John Popovich on the Feast of the Beheading of Saint John writes the following:
"Today is a little Friday, a second Great Friday. For today the greater man among those born of women, John, the Holy Forerunner and Baptiser of the Lord, is murdered. On Great Friday, people murdered God, crucified God. On today's holy great fast, people murdered the greatest of all men. It is not I who chose to use the expression 'the greatest.' What are my praises of the great glorious Forerunner of the Lord, whom the Lord praised more than anyone among men, more than any of the Apostles, the Angels, the Prophets, the Righteous Ones, the Sages? For the Lord declared of him: 'Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist..." (St. Matthew 11:11). In all Creation, there exists no greater praise.
This is why today is a little Great Friday. Consider; senseless people murder the greatest of the righteous. Is he getting in their way? Yes, he gets between the perverse king Herod and the dissolute Herodias, God's Truth, God's immutable Truth gets in the way of the lawless, gets in the way of poor sinners, gets in the way of everyone stupefied by the various passions. Consider; do not Christ's opponents even today still shout 'Crucify Him, Crucify Him!?' Even today, do not those who oppose Christ still demand the head of Jesus of Nazareth? They call for His head, not to mention calling for the head of Saint John the Baptist.
What is this? Could it be that this world has become a madhouse? People do not want God, they do not want the greatest Righteous One in the whole world. Whom do you want? Whom would you prefer? Whom would you set in Christ's stead? With whom would you replace Saint John the Baptist? With yourselves?! O moth! O, tiny mortal insects! Yes, when people become maddened by pride, when out of egotistical pride they lose their reason, they have no need of God, they have no need of God's Truth. They declare themselves to be gods. They present their petty, shallow, false likeness of truth as the great and salvific Truth. They declare their shallow, earthly, perishable images of truth to be the greatest of truths; they posit that we do not need Christ's Truth, that we do not want God's Truth. Yes, people blind in intellect and spirit do not see, and do not want to see, that man, true man, cannot manage without God. Why? Because this world is full of Herods, full of Pharisees. Herod demands the head of John the Baptist, Herod demands the heads of all of the righteous of the world, and Pharisees, the lying scribes, lying sophists of this world, demand the death of Christ, the Incarnate God.
Yes, today's Feast is a second Great Friday. Why? Because there is no greater transgression than that committed on Great Friday and that committed now, when Herod destroys the greatest among those born of women. Why did the Savior exalt the great Saint John the Baptist, as he did no one else? Because, brethren, the Holy Forerunner encompasses within himself, within his person, all of the virtues of Heaven, all of the virtues in all of the Prophets, all of the Apostles, all of the Martyrs, all of the Angels of Heaven, all of the Confessors. Regard: today we glorify the destruction, the beheading of the first Apostle among the Holy Apostles, for the Forerunner of the Lord was the first sent by God to see and to herald to the world the Savior of the world. Long before the Apostle Peter, before the Apostle Nathaniel, before anyone else, he bore witness to and announced God to the world, God Incarnate (in the flesh) in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first Apostle to see the Holy Spirit descending from Heaven onto the Lord Jesus, when he baptized Him in the Jordan, announces Him to be the Son of God, the Savior of the world. [John] is also the first Evangelist among the Evangelists. He first announced to the world, and pointed out, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bearer of all Good News for mankind.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Good News of Heaven and earth, God's Gospel for men in this world. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." In those few words, the Holy Forerunner expressed the fullness of the Gospels.
When the Lord set out to preach His Gospel, to preach with power, He took those words as the beginning and end of His Gospel. From that moment, Jesus began to preach and to declare, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (St. Matthew 4:17). This is why the holy Forerunner is the first Evangelist among Christ's Evangelists.
Today, people have come into contact with an Angel in the flesh, an earthly Angel, and a Heavenly person, Saint John the Baptist. It was not only the Old Testament Prophet who called the Forerunner the Angel of the Lord, but the Lord Himself said this was an Angel sent to go before Him to prepare the way for Him (Isaiah 40:3; Matt. 11:10). Not only a Prophet, said the Lord regarding the Baptist, but greater than a Prophet--the Angel of the Lord. And people do not want him, and people drive him from this world! Thus, the Holy Forerunner is truly the first Angel in the flesh, the first among those who became the multitude of Angels in the flesh, lamps bringing God's Light, who lived on earth like Angels of Heaven, and were Angels on earth, and in Heaven remained God's people, holy people.
Today we glorify the great feast of the first among the Prophets of the New Testament. He announced to men that the Lord Jesus Christ had appeared to the world not only as the Savior, but as the Enlightener and as the Judge of the world. In his hands were both the hatchet and the spade: on the day of the Dread Judgment, the Lord would clean off the earth's threshing floor, and would separate the wheat from the chaff, the righteous from the sinners. All of this the great and glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptizer of the Lord had. Therefore, today we also praise him as the holy New Testament Prophet, killed by the impious, criminal king Herod.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God