St. John the Baptist Preaching Before Herod. Pieter de Grebber (c. 1600-1653)
Today, glorifying the great righteous one who suffered for the truth, the Holy Church also commemorates the Christian warriors killed for the truth, who laid down their lives on the field of battle.
Truth for the Christian is more precious than anything. We can’t live without truth. Truth is more beautiful than the sun, as our folk saying goes.
The Life of St. John the BaptistThis John was called by God to be the forerunner of his Divine Son, to usher Him into the world, and to prepare mankind by repentance to receive the Redeemer, whom the prophets had foretold at a distance through every age from the beginning of the world, never ceasing to instill in the people of God faith and hope in Him by whom alone they were to be saved.
“>St. John the Baptist lived by truth, taught the truth, and always told the truth to everyone, even the powerful of this world—rebuking them for their lawlessness. For the truth he was put in prison, and for the truth he was beheaded by the sword. By his suffering and martyric death, St. John the Baptist not only sealed his fidelity to truth and purity of thought and life, but he also encourages us to love righteousness, to honor truth. To be a sufferer for Truth—not for our own petty truth that proceeds from vainglory and selfishness, but for Divine Truth—is the highest honor and glory that there can be on earth. Perhaps that is why the righteous St. John the Baptist is celebrated by the Church seven times a year, and moreover every Tuesday is dedicated to him.
In our time, regrettably, many live as did the impious King Herod lived. Many do not reckon with God’s truth, they live according to their own base truth; they could care less about God’s commandments, the Church sacraments, honor, and conscience. These people—often the young—frequently justify themselves by pointing to others, as if to say, so what? Many people live that way… But this cannot justify the rejection of God’s commandments. They say that nowadays there are different views, other worldviews, other customs and commandments—Christian laws are outdated. The wretches, they forget that Christ’s commandments are unchangeable, immutable, as Christ Himself said—The truth of the Lord abideth forever, and one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law (Matt. 5:18).
My dears, observation clearly testifies to the fact that there are rarely people or families who live outside the Law of God, as did Herod, and are happy. Usually all kinds of disorder, conflicts, and misfortunes quickly befall them. We mustn’t forget that the Lord punishes all iniquity, if not in this life then in the next. Neither did Herod enjoy earthly happiness for long—he was soon sent into exile where he lived in poverty with his family, and had an unhappy ending to his life. And his wife’s daughter who pleased him with her dancing fell through the ice on a river as she was walking over it, the ice severed closed around her neck, and the head of this wretched girl was brought to her mother.
Life is not pleasure—life is labor and podvig for the glory of God, out of love of neighbor. Whoever views life as pleasure, and gets caught up in empty entertainments, should remember and know that earthly pleasure begins with fun, but ends for the larger part in great sorrow, disappointment, and emptiness of soul.
Life—St. John the Baptist as if says to us—is standing in the truth. But how often do we remain silent while watching truth being trampled underfoot—we are silent out of cowardice, out of fear, afraid to draw anger upon ourselves or lose friends. The great righteous one reminds us that love for God is inseparable from standing in the truth. Love that abides in God’s Truth is a spark of divine fire in our heart that does not countenance evil, not does countenance the violation of truth, and scorches vainglory and fear out of our hearts.
Through the prayers of the holy Forerunner, may the Lord teach us to love truth and live according to it, overcoming our infirmity of soul!
Let us pray for the departed warriors of Christ who laid down their lives on the field of battle, who suffered for the faith and truth; may the Lord give them rest, through the prayers of St. John the Forerunner, and may He have mercy on us also and save us, for He is good, and loves mankind. Amen.