Beheading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John (Strict Fast)

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 ΜΕΣΩΗ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

ON AUGUST 29TH OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE BEHEADING OF THE HOLY AND GLORIOUS PROPHET, FORERUNNER AND BAPTIST JOHN

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Holy Scriptural Readings for the Feast:

Holy Epistle Lesson Acts 13:25-33.
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 6:14-30.

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 in 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 filled them with the fear of God, teaching them that no one is able to escape the wrath to come if his works are not worthy of repentance; had, through such preaching, prepared their hearts to receive the evangelical teachings of the Savior, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world" (St. Luke 3:1-18; St. John 1:29-36), after all this, St. 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 Heron 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 born a daughter, Salome. He would not desist from this unlawful union even when St. 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 St. 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). Concerning the finding of his holy head (kara), see February 24 and May 25.

According to The Prologue from Ochrid, St. John's disciples took the body of their teacher by night and buried it, but Herod tore out St. John's tongue with a needle and then buried his head in an unclean place. What later happened to St. John's head is recorded and can be read under February 24th.

God's punishment was quickly visited upon this group of evil doers. Prince Aretas, to avenge his daughter's honor, attacked Herod with his army and brought him to his knees. The defeated Herod was condemned by the Roman Caesar, Caligula, to exile first in Gaul and then in Spain. As exiles, Herod and Herodias lived in need and debasement until the earth opened and swallowed them up. Salome, Herodias's daughter, came to a bad end in the river Sikaris (Sula).

The death of Saint John took place before the Passover, but its commemoration on August 29th was instituted because it was on this day that a church, that had been built over his grave in Sebastia by the Emperor Constantine and the Empress Helena, was consecrated. In this church were also placed the holy relics of Saint John's disciples, Eliseus and Audius.

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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 sink, 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 begin drowned by earthly desires and passions.

You, who are 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 me through your intercessions.

You, who lived as an Angelic being, while bearing flesh upon this earth, liberate my soul from the carnal way of thinking and acting.

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 intercessions. Amen.

(Source: A Prayer Book: An Anthology of Orthodox Prayers by Fr. Peter A. Chamberas)

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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.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George

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Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Second Mode

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 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.

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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 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.

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