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.
THE HOLY FEAST-DAY OF THE BEHEADING OF THE HOLY AND GLORIOUS PROPHET, FORERUNNER AND BAPTIST JOHN (AUGUST 29TH)
[Austere Fast. Abstain from meat, meat products, fish, dairy products, olive oil, and wine]
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Saint, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist. 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 truly even more venerable than the Prophets, since thou wast 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 Hymn. Plagal of First Tone
The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was a certain divine dispensation, that the coming of the Savior might also be preached to those in Hades. Let Herodias lament, then, that she demanded a wicked murder; for she loved not the Law of God, nor eternal life, but one false and fleeting.
THE LIFE OF SAINT JOHN THE FORERUNNER AND BAPTIST JOHN.
The divine Baptist, the Prophet born of a Prophet, the seal of all the Prophets and beginning of the Apostles, the mediator between the Old and New Covenants, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, the God-sent Messenger of the Incarnate Messiah, the Forerunner of Christ's coming into the world (Isaiah 40:3; Mal. 3:1); who by many miracles was both conceived and born; who was filled with the Holy Spirit while yet n his mother's womb; who came forth like another Elias the Zealot, whose life in the wilderness and divine zeal for God's Law he imitated: this divine Prophet, after he had preached the baptism of repentance according to God's Command; had taught men of low rank and high how they must order their lives; had admonished those whom he baptized and had filed them with the fear of God, teaching them that no one is able to escape the wrath to come if he does not do works worthy of repentance; had, through such preaching, prepared their hearts to receive the evangelical teachings of the Savior; and finally, after he had pointed out to the people the Very Savior, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (St. Luke 3:2-18; St. John 1:29-36), after all this, Saint John sealed with his own blood the truth of his words and was made a sacred victim for the Divine Law at the hands of a transgressor.
This was Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee, the son of Herod the Great. This man had a lawful wife, the daughter of Arethas (or Aretas), the king of Arabia (that is, Arabia Petraea, which had the famous Nabatean stone city of Petra as its capital. This is the Aretas mentioned by Saint Paul in II Corinthians 11:32). Without any cause, and against every commandment of the Law, he put her away and took to himself Herodias, the wife of his deceased brother Philip, to whom Herodias had borne a daughter, Salome. He would not desist from this unlawful union even when Saint John, the preacher of repentance, the bold and austere accuser of the lawless, censured him and told him, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife" (St. Mark 6:18). Thus Herod, besides his other unholy acts, added yet this, that he apprehended St. John and shut him in prison; and perhaps he would have killed him straightway, had he not feared the people, who had extreme reverence for Saint John. Certainly, in the beginning, he himself had great reverence for this just and holy man. But finally, being pierced with the sting of a mad lust for the woman Herodias, he laid his defiled hands on the teacher of purity on the very day he was celebrating his birthday. When Salome, Herodias' daughter, had danced in order to please him and those who were supping with him, he promised her--with an oath more foolish than any foolishness--that he would give her anything she asked, even unto the half of his kingdom. And she, consulting with her mother, straightway asked for the head of John the Baptist in a charger. Hence this transgressor of the Law, preferring his lawless oath above the precepts of the Law, fulfilled this godless promise and filled his loathsome banquet with the blood of the Prophet. So it was that that All-Venerable Head, revered by the Angels, was given as a prize for an abominable dance, and became the plaything of the dissolute daughter of a debauched mother. As for the body of the divine Baptist, it was taken up by his disciples and placed in a tomb (St. Mark 6:21-29).
The first finding of the Venerable Head of the Forerunner came to pass during the middle years of the 4th century, through a revelation of the holy Forerunner to two monks, who came to Jerusalem to worship our Savior's Tomb. One of them took the venerable head in a clay jar to Emesa in Syria. After his death it went from the hands of one person to another, until it came into the possession of a certain priest-monk named Eustathius, an Arian. Because he ascribed to his own false belief the miracles wrought through the holy relic of the holy Baptist, he was driven from the cave in which he dwelt, and by dispensation forsook the holy head, which was again made known through a revelation of Saint John, and was found in a water-jar, about the year 430 AD, in the days of the Emperor Theodosius the Younger, when Uranius was Bishop of Emesa. (See Feb. 24th).
Because of the vicissitudes of time, the Venerable Head (Kara) of the holy Forerunner was lost for a third time and rediscovered in Comana of Cappadocia through a revelation to a certain priest, but it was found not, as before, in a clay jar, but in a silver vessel, and "in a sacred place." It was taken from Comana to Constantinople and was met with great solemnity by the Emperor, the Patriarch, and the clergy and people (see May 25th).
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
Christ God hath revealed to us thy truly venerable head as a divine treasure that had been concealed in the earth, O Prophet and Forerunner. Wherefore, as we gather on the feast of its finding, with our hymns inspired of God, we praise Christ the Savior, Who by thy mighty prayers saveth us from every kind of harm.
Homily on the Feast of the Beheading of Saint John, the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner
and Baptist of the Lord
By Saint Justin Popovic
Today is a little Great Friday, a Second Great Friday. For today the greatest man among those born of women, John, the Holy Forerunner and Baptizer of the Lord, is murdered. On Great Friday, people murdered God, crucified God. On today's holy great feast, 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 and 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 one 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 murdered 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 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 insect! Yes, when people become maddened by pride, when out of egotistical pride they lose their reason, they have not 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. Herods demand the head of St. John the Baptist, Herods demand 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? Why? Because, brethren, the Holy Forerunner encompassed 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 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. [St. 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..."
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.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God