Worthy Forerunner, Saint John the Baptist

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and the 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.

WORTHY FORERUNNER SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

The person who played a major role in Christ's Baptism is the Worthy Forerunner, John the Baptist. He is a great Prophet, a great character placed between the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Prophets of the Old and the first of the Prophets of the New Testament.

The way in which he was conceived was miraculous through God's intervention, through the sperm of his father Zacharias and not from the Holy Spirit. His birth is connected with miraculous events. His from the age of three years sojourn in the desert indicates his angelic way of life. His preaching of repentance was to prepare the people for receiving the Messiah. His humility was awe-inspiring. But also his approach to perfection shows that he attained a great height of grace.

The Worthy Forerunner was related to Christ, as His Mother, the Panagia (All-Holy), was related to Elizabeth, the mother of the Forerunner. At the time when the Worthy Forerunner was an embryo of six months in his mother's womb the Annunciation came to the Theotokos (Mother of God), so we understand that John the Baptist was six months older than Christ.

Saint John the Forerunner received the Holy Spirit, Which showed him to be a Prophet, while he was a six months' embryo in his mother's womb. For when the Panagia, who had just conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, greeted his mother Elizabeth, then "the babe leapt in her womb" (St. Luke 1:41). Thus he became a Prophet and passed the prophetic gift on to his mother, for in this way she too recognized the Mother of the Lord (Saint Gregory Palamas).

Many characterizations have been given of Saint John the Forerunner. The name John means gift of God. The forerunner is the one goes ahead on the way, that is to say the precursor of the Messiah. He is called the Baptist because he baptized Christ. In the canon of the Theophany Saint Cosmas the poet bishop of Maiouma, characterizes him with three expressions: the voice of the Logos/Word, candlestick of the light, forerunner of the sun. Because the Son and Logos/Word of God is the enhypostatic Logos/Word of the Father, John is the voice of the Logos/Word. Because Christ as God is the Eternal and Uncreated Light, the Forerunner is the lantern. And because Christ is the sun of righteousness, the bright sun of divinity, John is the bringer of dawn that is to say, the morning star which fortells the coming of the sun. Thus all the names, epithets and phrases are connected with his essential work, which is to announce the coming of the Messiah.

"...Since John's baptism led men to the sense of their sins and prepared the people to receive the most perfect baptism of Christ, and Christ was perfect God and perfect man and had not committed any sin, then why was he baptized? The answer to this question manifests great truths to us.

Saint John of Damaskos says that Christ was not baptized because He had need of purification, "but to identify Himself with our purification". Just as Christ suffered and was crucified for mankind and felt all the grief and pain, so he identified Himself with our own purification. Many things happened in this way.

So according to Saint John of Damaskos, Christ was baptized in order to crush the heads of the dragons in the water, for there was a conception that the demons dwell in the water; in order to wash the sin and bury the old Adam in the water, in order to bless the Baptist, for the Forerunner when he later put his hand on Christ's head; in order to keep the law, since He Himself gave it and should not appear to transgress it; in order to reveal the mystery of the Holy Trinity; in order to become a model for our own baptism, which is perfect baptism and is done by water and the Holy Spirit.

"...It is important to say that the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and came upon Christ. This is closely connected with the voice of the Father. And it suggests that the voice saying "this is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased" does not refer to Saint John the Baptist, but to Christ. The simultaneous indication of the dove by the voice of the Father points to the consubstantiality of the Persons (Hypostaseis) of the Holy Trinity, but also to the distinction between St. John the Forerunner and Christ. Until then the people had respected John very deeply, while Christ was unknown. The indication by the Holy Spirit connected with the voice of the Father pointed to Christ the Son of God sent to save man (Saint Theophylactos).

The Worthy Forerunner had great vision. In the lives of the Saints we find experiences of vision of the glory of the Holy Trinity in the Person of Jesus Christ. Saint John the Baptist was granted by God to hear the voice of the Father, to see the Logos/Word of God, and the Spirit of God. But this vision of God was not a sensory vision. To be sure, man sees also with the eyes of his body, but they have been transformed beforehand in order to be able to bear the sight of God. The supranatural revelation and manifestation of the Holy Trinity is shown by the phrases used by the Evangelists in presenting this event. The Evangelist Matthew says: "and behold, the heavens were opened to him" (St. Matthew 3:16) and the Evangelist Mark "he saw the heavens parting" (St. Mark 1:10). Thus the heavens opened and parted.

These two verbs are not used casually, but to express two different realities, which are related to the Incarnation of the Son of God and the benevolence of the Trinity towards mankind, as we see in the interpretation by Saint Gregory Palamas.

That the heavens "were opened" means that through Adam's disobedience the heavens were closed and man lost his communion with God. Now with the complete obedience of Christ, Who is the New Adam, the heavens are open again and man can attain communion with God. Thus Christ is the new founder of the human race. In the flesh we are descended from Adam, but spiritually we are descended from the new Adam, Christ. (Source: The Feasts of the Lord: An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos)

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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 Baptism,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George