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 AUGUST 29th OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE BEHEADING OF SAINT THE BAPTIST AND FORERUNNER
(A strict fast day)
Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner was the son of the Priest (Rabbi) Zacharias and his mother Elizabeth, a blood relative to the Most Holy Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary. This righteous Hebrew couple was childless, for Elizabeth was barren. They constantly prayed to the Almighty God to grant them a child. Their prayers were heard on high, an Angel was sent to them with the message telling them that the Lord God had been pleased with their faith and patience and that He was to fulfill their desire and supplication. Accordingly, Elizabeth bore unto her husband Zacharias a male child, who was given the name John.
John's Birth Announced to Zacharias
Gospel of Saint Luke 1:5-27
"There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for our prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.' And Zacharias said to the angel, 'How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.' And the angel answered and said to him, 'I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.' And the people waited for Zacharias and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless. So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived and she hid herself five months, saying, 'Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people."
According to the Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition of the Church, the Virgin Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and when they embraced John leaped in his mother's womb, which is considered his first acknowledgment of Christ as the Messiah.
After his birth, Saint John's father Zacharias was murdered in the temple. He and his mother fled to the desert and he was raised there by the angels of God. Thus he lived as an ascetic from the earliest part of his life. He ate plants and roots and wore rough clothing. When he grew, he baptized people in the Jordan river, teaching repentance, but also saying that someone greater would come after him and baptize with the Holy Spirit.
Saint John exhorted all to charity and to a reformation of their lives, and those who came to him in these dispositions he baptized in the river. The Jews practiced religious washings of the body as legal purifications, but no baptism before this of Saint John had so great and mystical a signification. It chiefly represented the manner in which the souls of men must be cleansed from all sin to be made partakers of Christ's spiritual Kingdom, and it was an emblem of the interior effects of sincere repentance; a type of that sacrament of baptism which was to come with our Lord. So noteworthy was this rite in Saint John's ministration that it earned for him even in his own life the name of "the Baptist", i.e. the baptizer. When he had already preached and baptized for some time our Redeemer went from Nazareth and presented Himself among the others to be baptized by him. The Baptist knew Him by a Divine revelation and at first, excused himself, but at length acquiesced out of obedience. The Savior of sinners was pleased to be baptized among sinners, not to be cleansed Himself but to sanctify the waters, says Saint Ambrose, that is, to give them the virtue to cleanse away the sins of men.
Herod Antipas, son of the Herod who slew the young children in Bethlehem at the time of the birth of the Lord Jesus, was the ruler of Galilee when St. John the Baptist was preaching. But Herod, married to the daughter of Aretas, an Arabian prince. But Herod, an evil branch of evil stock, put away his lawful wife and took Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, to live with him while Philip was still alive. St. John the Baptist stood up against this lawlessness and strongly denounced Herod, at which Herod threw him into prison. At the time of some feast at his court in Sebastia in Galilee, Salome, the daughter of Herodias and Philip, danced for the guests. Herod, in his cups and carried away by her dancing, promised her whatever she asked, even to the half of his kingdom. Instructed by her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist. Herod commanded that John be beheaded in the prison and his head brought on a platter. John's disciples took the body of their teacher by night and buried it, but Herod tore out John's tongue with a needle and then buried his head in an unclean place.
(To be continued)
AUGUST 28th: THE SERVICE OF GREAT VESPERS AT 4:30 P.M.
DIVINE SERVICES ON AUGUST 29TH AT SAINT ANDREW:
Orthros (Matins at 9:000 a.m.
Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
"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