THE NATIVITY OF THE VENERABLE AND GLORIOUS PROPHET AND FORERUNNER JOHN THE BAPTIST--JUNE 24TH
He that was greater than all who are born of women, the Prophet who received God's testimony that he surpassed all the Prophets, was born of the aged and barren Elizabeth (St. Luke 1:7) and filled all his kinsmen, and those that lived round about, with gladness and wonder. But even more wondrous was that which followed on the eighth day when he was circumcised, that is, the day on which a male child receives his name. Those present called him Zacharias, the name of his father. But the mother said, "Not so, but he shall be called John." Since the child's father was unable to speak, he was asked, by means of a sign, to indicate the child's name. He then asked for a tablet and wrote, "His name is John." And immediately Zacharias' mouth was opened, his tongue was loosed from its silence of nine months, and filled with the Holy Spirit, he blessed the God of Israel, Who had fulfilled the promises made to their fathers, and had visited them that were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, and had sent to them the light of salvation. Zacharias prophesied concerning the child also, saying that he would be a Prophet of the Most High and Forerunner of Jesus Christ. And the child John, who was filled with grace, grew and waxed strong in the Spirit; and he was in the wilderness until the day of his showing to Israel (St. Luke 1:57-80). His name is a variation of the Hebrew "Johanan," which means "Yahweh is gracious."
The feast and commemoration of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom on the morning of the feast and preceded by a Orthros (Matins) service. On this day, the Orthodox Church also commemorates the mother of Saint John the Baptist, Elizabeth.
Scripture readings for the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist are: At the Orthros (Matins): St. Luke 1:24-25, 57-68, 76, 80. At the Divine Liturgy: Epistle Lesson: Romans 13:11-14:4. Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 1:25, 57-68, 76, 80.
The glorious Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist is also referred to as John the Forerunner because he was the forerunner of Christ. He was an ascetic and great prophet, who baptized Christ and became one of the most revered Saints in the Orthodox Christian Church. Saint John is a cousin of Christ through his mother Elizabeth who was the daughter of Zoia. Zoia is the sister of Christ's grandmother. He was later beheaded by Herod in the first century to satisfy the request of Herod's stepdaughter, Salome, and wife Herodias. Because he baptized Christ, he is the patron Saint of godparents. He is sometimes called the Angel of the Desert; because of this title, he is sometimes depicted with wings.
Isaiah 40:3-5 is commonly read as a prophesy of John. His father, Zacharias, was a priest of the course of Abia (1 Chr. 24:10), and his mother, Elizabeth, was of the daughters of Aaron (St. Luke 1:5). Saint John held the priesthood of Aaron, giving him the authority (grace) to perform baptisms of God.
His birth took place six (6) months before that of Jesus, and according to the Gospel account was expected by prophecy (St. Matthew 3:3; Isaiah 40:3; Mal. 3:1) and foretold by an Angel. Zacharias lost his power of speech because of his unbelief over the birth of his son, and had it restored on the occasion of St. John's circumcision (St. Luke 1:64).
Saint John was a Nazarite from his birth (St. Luke 1:15; Num. 6:1-12). He spent his early years in the mountainous tract of Judea lying between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea (St. Matthew 3:1-12). He led a simple life, wearing rope (gamla) fiber clothing and eating "locusts and wild honey" (St. Matthew 3:4).
As an adult Saint John started to preach in public, and people from "every quarter" were attracted to his message. The essence of his preaching was the necessity of repentance and turning away from selfish pursuits. He denounced the Sadducees and Pharisees as a "generation of vipers," and warned them not to assume their heritage gave them special privilege (St. Luke 3:8). He warned tax collectors and soldiers against extortion and plunder. His doctrine and manner of life stirred interest, bringing people from all parts to see him on the banks of the Jordan River. There he baptized thousands unto repentance.
The fame of Saint John reached the ears of Jesus in Nazareth (St. Matthew 3:5), and he came from Galilee to Jordan to be baptized by Saint John, on the special ground that it became him to "fulfill all righteousness" (Saint Matthew 3:15). Saint John's special office ceased with the baptism of Jesus, who must now "increase" as the King come to His Kingdom. He continued, however, for a while to bear testimony to the Messiahship of Jesus. He pointed Him out to his disciples, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God." His public ministry was suddenly (after about six months probably) brought to a close by his being cast into prison by Herod, whom he had reproved for the sin of having taken to himself the wife of his brother Philip (St. Luke 3:19). He was shut up in the castle of Machaerus, a fortress on the southern extremity of Peraea, 9 miles east of the Dead Sea, and here he was beheaded at the instigation of Herodias. His disciples, having consigned the headless body to the grave, went and told Jesus all that had occurred (St. Matthew 14:3-12). Saint John's death occurred apparently just before the third Passover of Jesus' ministry.
Jesus Himself testified regarding St. John that he was a "burning and shining light" (St. John 5:35). Saint John was the last prophet of the Old Testament Prophets, thus serving as a bridge figure between that period of revelation and Jesus. They also embrace a tradition that, following his death, Saint John descended into Hell and there once more preached that Jesus the Messiah was coming.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
O Prophet and Forerunner of the presence of Christ, we who fervently honor you cannot worthily praise you. For by your revered and glorious birth the barrenness of your mother and the muteness of your father were unbound, and the incarnation of the Son of God is proclaimed to the world.
Kontakion Hymn. Third Tone
She that once was barren doth today bring forth Christ's Forerunner, John, the culmination and the crown of all the Prophets. For when he, in River Jordan, laid his hand on Him Whom the Prophets preached aforetime, he was revealed as God the Word's fore-chosen Prophet, His mighty preacher, and His Forerunner in grace.
Please Note: The Divine services will take place at our beautiful Chapel of the Holy Dormition of the Theotokos in New Carlisle:
Orthros (Matins) at 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
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 (Service),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God