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.
ON JUNE 24th OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE HOLY NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE FORERUNNER AND BAPTIST OF CHRIST
"As the departed, Jesus began to say to the multitude concerning John: 'What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is of whom it is written:
'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.'
Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist, but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (St. Matthew 11:7-11).
Six months before his appearing to the Most Holy Virgin Mary in Nazareth, the Great Gabriel, Archangel of the Lord, appeared to Zacharias the High Priest in the Temple in Jerusalem. Before he revealed the miraculous conception by a virgin who has not known a man, the Archangel revealed the wondrous conceiving by an old and barren woman. Zacharias was unable at once to believe the words of God's Herald, and for this his tongue was bound in dumbness and remained thus until the eighth day after John's birth. The kinsfolk of Zacharias and Elizabeth gathered together on that day for the infant's circumcision and naming. When they enquired of the father how he wished the child to be called, he, being still dumb, wrote on a slate: 'John'. At that moment his tongue was loosed and he began to speak. Zacharias's house was on the heights between Bethlehem and Hebron. The news of the Angel's appearing to Zacharias, of his dumbness and of the loosening of his tongue at the exact moment that he wrote 'John', was carried throughout all Israel, coming to Herod's ears. So, when he sent men to kill all the infants around Bethlehem, he sent men off to Zacharias's family house in the hills, to slay John also. But Elizabeth hid the child in good time. The king was enraged at this, and sent an executioner to the Temple to kill Zacharias (for it was then his turn to serve in the Temple again). Zacharias was killed between the court and the Temple, and his blood clotted and solidified on the paving slabs, and remained as an enduring witness against Herod. Elizabeth hid herself and the child in a cave, where she soon died. The young John remained in the wilderness alone, in the care of God and His Angels. (Source" The Prologue from Ochrid)
As an adult Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner 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 then 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" (St. 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 to his disciples, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God". His Public Ministry was suddenly (after six months probably) brought to a close by his being cast into prison by Herod the king, 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.
Saint John the Baptist is a reminder that we won't be transformed by following business as usual. We need a radical change, a spiritual rebirth, a new dependence on and openness to the power of a God who does not operate according to our preferences and agendas. Instead of coming up with the usual excuses as to why we can't believe and live as Christ taught, it's time to be shaken out of our complacency. It's time to recognize that what has brought us weakness, despair, and sorrow will simply continue to make more of the same. A little bit of convenient religion on the margins of our lives may produce socially respectable people, but not those who manifest the heavenly kingdom even as they live in corrupt world. (Eastern Christian insights)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" - Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God