During this coming week, Tuesday, August 29th, our Church celebrates the “Beheading of John the Baptizer.” Why does the Church give such veneration to St John the Baptist, even fixing a strict fast day in his honor? Some reasons.
Our Lord Himself said that St John was the greatest prophet ‘among those born of women’. Some hearing these words are surprised. They ask: Surely, Christ Himself is the greatest man born of women? However, Christ was not born of a married woman, he was born of a Virgin. Therefore, in obedience to our Lord’s words that St John is the greatest born of women, the Church duly honors him. In fact, there are no fewer than six feasts of St John in the Church Year. The first is his Conception on 23 September. Then comes his commemoration on 7 January, the day after the Feast of the Baptism of Christ. The third is the Second Finding of his head on 24 February. His next feast is the Third Finding of his head on 25 May. The fifth is his Birth, or Nativity, on 24 June, and finally today’s feast, the last in the Church Year, his Beheading on 29 August.
The parents of St John were great and holy people in their own right and their child was a gift in answer to prayer made to them in their pious old age. His father was St Zachariah, Prophet, Priest and Martyr. His mother, St Elizabeth, was the sister of St Anna, that is the sister of the mother of the Mother of God. This relationship between the Mother of God and her kinsman, St John, is expressed in the icon which typically hangs over the holy doors in Eastern Christian churches. This shows Christ in the center, the Mother of God on His right and St John on His left. This icon is called the Deisis, and signifies how our salvation is related not only to Our Savior, but also to His Holy Mother and St John.
St John has the special title of the ‘Forerunner’, in Greek ‘Prodromos’, which in is a common Greek Christian name. St John alone can claim to be the Forerunner of Christ, therefore the pioneer of our Faith. How can we fail therefore to give him special honor?
The Holy Foreunner is also given the title of ‘Prophet’. In fact it can be said that he was the last Prophet of the Old Testament.
Because St John is so important in our Christian history,
I will continue to share more in the coming Bulletins.