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 SEVENTH DAY OF THE MONTH OF JANUARY: The Synaxis of Saint John, the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord
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.
Kontakion Hymn. Plagal Second Mode
The Jordan accepted Your presence in the flesh and reversed its course in fear. John, fulfilling the spiritual ministry, fell back in awe. The ranks of Angels, seeing You in the flesh, baptized in the river, were amazed, and all who were in darkness were filled with Light, praising You who appeared and enlightened all.
On the day following the Feast of Theophany (Epiphany), in accordance with ancient tradition, the Holy Church of Christ convenes her children for the Synaxis of the holy, glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist of the Lord, John. The word Synaxis means an assembling or an assembly, in this case, a convocation in church, at which God is hymned and praised and the great John, the Forerunner and Baptist is lauded. Truly it is fitting that, immediately after celebrating the Lord's Baptism, we should gather to glorify by a special commemoration the steward of the divine mystery, who placed his hand upon the Master's head.
Although observed in all churches throughout the world, the Synaxis of the Baptist is celebrated with particular solemnity in those dedicated to the Saint. Impressive ceremonies were held on this day at the church alongside the Jordan where Christ was baptized; in Sevaste, where Herod beheaded the Forerunner; in Antioch, where the Baptist's right hand was taken by the holy Evangelist Luke; and in Constantinople, whither the sacred hand was transferred from Antioch. The Forerunner's hand arrived in the Imperial City on the eve of the Theophany, so that it seemed the Baptist himself had come to bless water. The Emperor and all the people rejoiced greatly and returned on the day after Theophany for the synaxis. We also celebrate the synaxis of the great Forerunner and Baptist John with spiritual joy and beseech him to pray the Master Christ to assemble us again with the Church Triumphant in the temple not made by man's hand, "eternal in the heavens" (2 Corinthians, 5) where the voices of those who celebrate God's perpetual self-manifestation are forever heard. There Christ reveals Himself clearly to His Saints, sustaining them by the vision of His countenance. (Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints)
A Narrative Concerning the Honored Hand of the Forerunner
The iniquitous murderer King Herod once held a banquet at which the daughter of his brother's wife Herodias danced lasciviously. The wanton girl was rewarded by the tyrant with the head of Saint John, the Lord's Forerunner. Afterwards, the Baptist's precious body was buried by his disciples near the tomb of the holy Prophet Elisha in the chief city of Samaria, Sevaste.
Later, the holy Evangelist Luke came there, while traveling through various parts of the land preaching Christ. He wished to take the incorrupt remains of the holy Forerunner John the Baptist to Antioch, where he was born, reared, and educated; but the Sebasteans, who greatly revered the relics, would not permit him. Saint Luke was only able to remove the Forerunner's right hand, which baptized our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. The holy Evangelist gave the precious treasure to his native city, where it was accepted with the greatest awe by the faithful and worked numerous miracles.
After much time passed, Julian the Apostate, who had renounced Christ and worshipped idols, came to the throne and began persecuting the Church as fiercely as did earlier heathen (pagan) emperors. Not only did he oppress and execute the living, he savagely attacked the dead as well. Exhuming the remains of holy Martyrs, he had them burned, as also many Christian churches. One day he appeared in Antioch, intending to sacrifice to his vile god Apollo in nearby Daphne, to offend the local Christians, and to burn churches and their contents. Receiving word of his arrival, the faithful hid the holy Baptist's hand in the Tower of Gonius so that it would not be dishonored or destroyed by the persecutor. While in the city, Julian wrought numerous lawless deeds and tortured many Christians. Unable to find the hand of the Holy Baptist, he sent a decree to Sebaste in Palestine, ordering that the Saint's body (which reposed there in its entirety, except for the right hand and head) and the church dedicated to him be destroyed by fire. The historians Nicephorus and Kedrinus state that Julian's command was carried out, but according to the blessed Symeon Metaphrastes another body was substituted for the Baptist's and committed to flames with the church. Saint Symeon relates that the Patriarch of Jerusalem learned of the order in time to send the holy relics to Alexandria.
When the odious ruler perished and piety flourished once more, the hand of the holy Forerunner was removed from the tower like a candle taken out from "under a bushel" (St. Matthew, 5). Again it was venerated by the faithful and worked wonders (miracles). (The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints)
"This... is godly and salvific sorrow, when we accuse ourselves for all the wrongs that we have done and by no means blame anyone else, when we sorrow over ourselves and when through the confession of the sins we have committed and through sorrowful contrition for them, we become reconciled with God." (Saint Gregory Palamas)
DIVINE SERVICES ON JANUARY 7TH:
Orthros (Matins) at 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
Place of Worship: Saint Andrew church
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!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Theophany,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God