My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 29th of August, the Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
the Beheading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Second Tone
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 by 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 of First Tone
The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was a certain Divine
dispensation, that the coming of the Savior might also be
preached in those in Hades. Let Herodias lament, then, that she
demanded a wicked murder; for she loved not the Law of God,
nor eternal life, but one false and fleeting.
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 Covenant, 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 40:13; Malachi 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 Zealor, 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 HE DO NOT WORKS WORTHY OR REPENTANCE; had, through such preaching, prepared their hearts to receive the evangelical teaching of the Savior; and finally, after he had pointed out to the people the very Savior, and sia,d “BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD, WHICH TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD” (Luke 3:2-18; John 1:29-36), after all this, John sealed witih 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 Herod 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 2 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 borne a daughter, Salome. He would not desist from this unlawful union even when 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” (Mark 6:18). Thus Herod, besides his other unholy acts, added ye this, that he apprehended 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 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, 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 price 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 (Mark 6:21-29).
The Evangelist Luke reports that Herod the Tetrarch heard of all the things being done by Jesus. “Herod was thoroughly at a loss, because it was said by some that ‘John hath been raised from the dead,’ and by some that ‘Elias did appear,’ and by others that ‘some one of the ancient Prophets hath rise.’ And Herod said, ‘I beheaded John, but who is this about whom I hear such things?’ And he was seeking to see Him (Luke 9:7-9). The Evangelist Mark also records that Herod the king heard of Jesus, for His name became publicly known. And Herod was saying, “John, the one who baptized, was raised fro dead, and on this account works of power energize him.” Others were saying, “It is Elias.” But others were saying, “It is a Prophet, or as one of the Prophets.” But after Herod heard hereof, he said, “it is John, whom I beheaded; he was raised from the dead” (Mark 6:16).
Blessed Theophylact observes from all the foregoing that “these things may also be understood in a spiritual sense. Herod represents the fleshly and superficial Jewish people. He married a woman, ‘false and shameless glory,’ and even today her daughter, ‘erroneous knowledge of the Scriptures,’ dances and moves among the Jewish people, beguiling them. For they think that they know Scriptures, but they do not. For they decapitated John, the speaker of prophecy, not accepting the Head of all prophecy, Christ. Though they have the word of the Prophets, yet they possess the word without its Head, which is Christ.”
We read in The Great Synaxaristes, for the 24th of February, the Feast of the Finding of the Head of the Forerunner, that despite the fact that Herodias mocked that Honorable head, she still refused to have it buried with the Baptist’s body. She feared that John could then rise from the dead and resume denouncing her. She was determined to keep the head separate from the body. The disciples of the Baptist took up his sacred head and interred it by night at Sevasti, a city of Samaria. As for the precious head of the Forerunner, Herodias had it buried on the palace grounds in an unclean place. One of the women of her household, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, was privy to the hiding place. The righteous Joanna, together with many other women, had been ministering to Jesus from her possessions. She, later, would prove her devotion and valor. She was one of the myrrh-bearers who sent to the Sepulcher and then related to the eleven disciples the things that she had seen. Her heart was filled with sorrow at the murder of the holy Prophet John. She grieved upon hearing Herodias’ words of mockery addressed to the precious relic of his head. She reverently, thereupon, by night, went and retrieved the head. She placed it reverently within an earthenware vessel. She then took it to the Mount of Olives, on the grounds of Herod’s estates. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God