The Behading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John (Part II)

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 of Doxology to the Theotokos

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. O Mary, Mother of God, we too send a doxology and a hymn of praise to You, who are the most revered treasure of the whole world, the ever-burning lamp, the crown of virginity, the scepter of Orthodox Christianity, the space in which He Who is altogether uncontainable was contained within You, who are both Mother and Virgin. You are the person for whom heaven rejoices, the Angels of delight, the demons are banished and Satan is vanquished and fallen. Through You, O Theotokos, man, who had fallen into the depths of the abyss, is now able to once again rise to heaven. Through You all of creation has come to the knowledge of the Truth. Through You all of the nations can be guided to salvation. Through You the Only-Begotten Son of God and our Savior Jesus Christ has shown a great Light upon us who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. Amen.

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TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):

On August 31st Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors, and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: On the 31st of this month we commemorate the Deposition of the Sash of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos in the holy shrine at her venerable church at Chalcoprateia, that is, the Brass Market, when it had been recovered from the diocese of Zela during the reign of the Emperor Arcadius. We also commemorate the miracle that was wrought when the sash was placed upon the Empress Zoe, wife of the Emperor Leo.

Doxastikon (Glory; both now.) Second Tone

As with an exceedingly bright crown, the Church of God is adorned with thy holy sash, O All-Immaculate Theotokos; she is radiant with joy today, O Lady, and she mystically danceth, while crying out to thee: Rejoice, thou precious diadem and crown of divine glory; rejoice, thou only glory of the fullness of the faithful, and its everlasting delight; rejoice, haven and protection of them that have recourse to thee, and our salvation.

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Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Mother of God. Plagal of Fourth Tone

O Ever-Virgin Theotokos, shelter of mankind, thou hast bestowed upon thy people a mighty investure, even thine immaculate body's raiment and sash, which by thy seedless childbirth have remained incorrupt; for in thee nature and time are made new. Wherefore, we implore thee to grant peace to the world, and great mercy to our souls.

Kontakion Hymn of the Mother of God. Second Tone

Thy precious sash, O Theotokos, which encompassed thy God-receiving womb, is an invincible force for thy flock, and an unfailing treasury of every good, O Only Ever-virgin Mother.

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TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:

Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 9:1-7
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28

INSPIRING WORDS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:

JESUS CHRIST

"I your father, I your spouse, I your home. I your nurse, I your root. I your foundation. Whatever you want, I will be. You will lack nothing. I will work for you. For I came to serve and not to be served. I will be your friend, and your host, your head and your brother, your sister and your mother. I will be everything. Only be intimate with me! I will be poor for you, errant for you, on the Cross for you, in the tomb for you. Above I plead the Father for your sake. On earth I became intercessor to the Father for your sake. You are everything for me: brother, co-heir, friend and member. What more do you want? (Saint John Chrysostom)

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HOMILY ON THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

AND FORERUNNER (Part II)
By Saint Justin Popovic

Looking toward the East, he said to the entire the human race, from Adam to our days, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." The Kingdom of Heaven? Here it is: the Lord Jesus [come] from Heaven. In Him is the Kingdom of Heaven. Looking toward the West, and seeing people drowning in sins and death, he called to them as well, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." He looked to the North and to the South [and saw]-the same people, all slaves to sin, slaves to death, salves to the devil. To all he announced the glorious, holy, salvific Gospel Gospel: "People, repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." He was such an Evangelist, someone possessed of great power!

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 man--St. 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 (cf. Isaiah 40:3; St. Matthew 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 form 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 foreseen. Therefore, today we also praise him as the holy New Testament Prophet, killed by the impious, criminal, king Herod.

The Holy Forerunner also received the Lord's witness to the fact that he was the greatest of those born of woman, because he had become the first of all of the Holy Martyrs of the New Testament. See how he suffered for God's Truth in this world! He suffered joyously! In today's principal hymn (August 29th) and prayer to him it is said that he went to his death rejoicing, and that he suffered rejoicing. Thus, he became the first example and inspiration to all of the Holy Martyrs of the New Testament, beginning with Saint Stefanos (St. Stephen) the Protomartyr and through today. All of the Holy Martyrs go to their death rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ, go to their deaths, knowing that death cannot hold them in its bonds, knowing that death is merely a gate, an open gate through which their holy souls enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. How else, brothers and sisters, can we explain the joy of Holy Great Martyr George's joy while having his body broken: his bones were being broken on the wheel, and he shouted with joy in the Lord, for he could see Him, could see the Angels of God, standing around Him, and the Angels stopping the wheel. See what joy [they experienced] during those awful tortures! And the Holy Great Martyr stands up whole and unharmed before the godless Emperor Diocletian. The first one to reveal that holy joy of Martyrdom had been St. John, the Holy Forerunner and Baptizer of the Lord.

Today (August 29th) we also specifically glorify the first Evangelist and Christian Confessor, the first to Confess God in this New Testament world. Consider how fearlessly, openly and directly he confessed God's Truth: O King, it is not right for you to have your brother's wife, your living brother's wife. You have taken your brother's wife away from him. All of the laws of Heaven and earth are against you, and I, I recite these laws of Heaven and earth to you, for it was to do so that I was sent...

"...Today, in glorifying that great and glorious first Apostle, first Martyr, first Evangelist, Precursor to all True Christians of all time, we bow down before his joyous suffering for Christ's Truth and His Holy Gospel, before him as Apostle and Martyr. Consider, that for already 2,000 years, the One who allowed the lawless king to behead him, has been working countless miracles in the earthly realm, living in it alongside the Lord Jesus Christ. For 2,000 years he has been ceaselessly working miracles for all those who turn to him in prayer.

Brothers and sisters, whenever you are in great sorrow, turn to that first Apostle of Christ, and he will help you with all of your burdens. And should some kind of misfortune happen, turn to that first Evangelist. No matter what bitterness might fill your soul, he will sweeten it with Christ's grace, which he will mystically send down to your tortured soul from the World on High. And when you find yourself in temptations and horrors of this earthly life, run to him, to the holy Confessor; tell him what is in your heart, pour out your sorrows and spiritual needs and rest assured that in a mystical, divine manner, he will come down into your soul and will save you, and will deliver you from all temptations and woes. But should you need to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ in this world: should others attack you on all sides, should atheists and those who oppose Christ want to swallow you up, to destroy you for belonging to Christ, should they want to silence our voice, to stop it from speaking of Christ, then remember that first Martyr, and call out to him: O Holy Martyr, first Martyr of Christ is the Gospels, hurry to my aid! Grant that may I die for the Lord Jesus Christ, leave my body like temporary clothing, and by the path of the Holy Martyrs move to Christ's Kingdom! He will entreat the Lord that you might also join the host of Luminaries..."

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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

+Father George