FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:
Synaxis of John the Holy Glorious Prophet, Baptist, & Forerunner
Afterfeast of the Theophany of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
Ἡ Σύναξις τοῦ Τιμίου Ἐνδόξου Προφήτου, Προδρόμου καί Βαπτιστοῦ Ἰωάννου.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
Acts of the Apostles 19:1-8
Prokeimenon. Grave Mode.
The righteous shall rejoice in the Lord.
Verse: Oh God, hear my cry.
In those days, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said, "No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John's baptism." And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all. And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God.
Πράξεις Ἀποστόλων 19:1-8
Προκείμενον. Ἦχος βαρύς.
Εὐφρανθήσεται δίκαιος ἐν Κυρίῳ.
Στίχ. Εἰσάκουσον, ὁ Θεός, τῆς φωνῆς μου.
Ἐν ταῖς ἡμεραῖς ἐκείναις, ἐγένετο δέ, ἐν τῷ τὸν Ἀπολλὼ εἶναι ἐν Κορίνθῳ, Παῦλον διελθόντα τὰ ἀνωτερικὰ μέρη ἐλθεῖν εἰς Ἔφεσον· καὶ εὑρών τινας μαθητὰς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Εἰ πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐλάβετε πιστεύσαντες; Οἱ δὲ εἶπονN πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἀλλʼ οὐδὲN εἰ πνεῦμα ἅγιόν ἐστιν, ἠκούσαμεν. Εἶπέν τε πρὸς αὐτούς, Εἰς τί οὖν ἐβαπτίσθητε; Οἱ δὲ εἶπον, Εἰς τὸ Ἰωάννου βάπτισμα. Εἶπεν δὲ Παῦλος, Ἰωάννης μὲν ἐβάπτισεν βάπτισμα μετανοίας, τῷ λαῷ λέγων εἰς τὸν ἐρχόμενον μετʼ αὐτὸν ἵνα πιστεύσωσιν, τοῦτʼ ἔστιν, εἰς τὸν Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν. Ἀκούσαντες δὲ ἐβαπτίσθησαν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ. Καὶ ἐπιθέντος αὐτοῖς τοῦ Παύλου τὰς χεῖρας, ἦλθεν τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ἐπʼ αὐτούς, ἐλάλουν τε γλώσσαις καὶ προεφήτευον. Ἦσαν δὲ οἱ πάντες ἄνδρες ὡσεὶ δεκαδύο. Εἰσελθὼν δὲ εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν ἐπαρρησιάζετο, ἐπὶ μῆνας τρεῖς διαλεγόμενος καὶ πείθων τὰ περὶ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ.
The Gospel of John 1:29-34
At that time, John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John bore witness, "I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."
Κατὰ Ἰωάννην 1.29-34
Τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ, βλέπει ὁ ᾿Ιωάννης τὸν ᾿Ιησοῦν ἐρχόμενον πρὸς αὐτὸν καὶ λέγει· ἴδε ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ ὁ αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου. οὗτός ἐστι περὶ οὗ ἐγὼ εἶπον· ὀπίσω μου ἔρχεται ἀνὴρ ὃς ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν. κἀγὼ οὐκ ᾔδειν αὐτόν, ἀλλ᾽ ἵνα φανερωθῇ τῷ ᾿Ισραήλ, διὰ τοῦτο ἦλθον ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ ὕδατι βαπτίζων. καὶ ἐμαρτύρησεν ᾿Ιωάννης λέγων ὅτι τεθέαμαι τὸ Πνεῦμα καταβαῖνον ὡς περιστερὰν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ, καὶ ἔμεινεν ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν. κἀγὼ οὐκ ᾔδειν αὐτόν, ἀλλ᾽ ὁ πέμψας με βαπτίζειν ἐν ὕδατι, ἐκεῖνός μοι εἶπεν· ἐφ᾽ ὃν ἂν ἴδῃς τὸ Πνεῦμα καταβαῖνον καὶ μένον ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ βαπτίζων ἐν Πνεύματι ῾Αγίῳ. κἀγὼ ἑώρακα καὶ μεμαρτύρηκα ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ Ζ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Ἡ Σύναξις τοῦ Ἁγίου ἐνδόξου Προφήτου, Προδρόμου καὶ Βαπτιστοῦ Ἰωάννου. Συνέδραμε δὲ καὶ ἡ τῆς παντίμου καὶ ἁγίας αὐτοῦ Χειρὸς πρὸς τὴν Βασιλεύουσαν μετένεξις.
Ἐμὴ σε γλῶσσα Κήρυξ πῶς ἂν αἰνέσῃ,
Ὃν γλῶσσα Χριστοῦ γηγενῶν μείζω λέγει;
Μνήμη ἐβδομάτη Προδρόμου λάχεν αἰδοίοιο.
Ταῖς τοῦ σοῦ Προδρόμου πρεσβείαις, Χριστὲ ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, ἐλέησον καὶ σῶσον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
Today we celebrate the Synaxis in honour of the most sacred Forerunner, since he ministered at the Mystery of the Divine Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Apolytikion in the Second Tone
Μνήμη δικαίου μέτ' ἐγκωμίων, σοὶ δὲ ἀρκέσει ἡ μαρτυρία τοῦ Κυρίου Πρόδρομε, ἀνεδείχθης γὰρ ὄντως καὶ Προφητῶν σεβασμιώτερος, ὅτι καὶ ἐν ῥείθροις βαπτίσαι κατηξιώθης τὸν κηρυττόμενον. Ὅθεν τῆς ἀληθείας ὑπεραθλήσας, χαίρων εὐηγγελίσω καὶ τοὶς ἐν ἅδῃ, Θεὸν φανερωθέντα ἐν σαρκί, τὸν αἴροντα τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου, καὶ παρέχοντα ἡμῖν τὸ μέγα ἔλεος.
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 be 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 in the Plagal of the Second Tone
Τὴν σωματικήν σου παρουσίαν δεδοικῶς ὁ Ἰορδάνης, τρόμω ὑπεστρέφετο, τὴν πνευματικὴν δὲ λειτουργίαν ἐκπληρῶν ὁ Ἰωάννης, φόβω ὑπεστέλλετο, τῶν Ἀγγέλων αἱ τάξεις ἐξεπλήττοντο, ὁρώσαί σε ἐν ῥείθροις σαρκὶ βαπτιζόμενον, καὶ πάντες οἱ ἐν τῷ σκότει κατηυγάζοντο, ἀνυμνούντές σε τὸν φανέντα, καὶ φωτίσαντα τὰ πάντα.
The Jordan accepted Your presence in the flesh and reversed its course in fear. John, fulfilling the spiritual ministry, fell back in awe. The ranks of Angels, seeing You in the flesh, baptized in the river, were amazed, and all who were in darkness were filled with light, praising You who appeared and enlightened all.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
Ἐν Ἰορδάνῃ βαπτιζομένου σου Κύριε, ἡ τῆς Τριάδος ἐφανερώθη προσκύνησις, τοῦ γὰρ Γεννήτορος ἡ φωνὴ προσεμαρτύρει σοί, ἀγαπητὸν σὲ Υἱὸν ὀνομάζουσα, καὶ τὸ Πνεῦμα ἐν εἴδει περιστεράς, ἐβεβαίου τοῦ λόγου τὸ ἀσφαλές. Ὁ ἐπιφανεῖς Χριστὲ ὁ Θεός, καὶ τὸν κόσμον φωτίσας δόξα σοί.
When Thou wast baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of the word. O Christ our God, Who hast appeared and hast enlightened the world, glory be to Thee.
Τις γιορτές του Δωδεκαημέρου τις επισφραγίζει η σημερινή γιορτή, κατά την οποία "την σύναξιν επιτελούμεν του αγίου και τιμίου Προδρόμου εξ αρχής και άνωθεν παραδιδομένην, ως τω μυστηρίω του θείου βαπτίσματος υπουργήσαντος...". Ο Ιωάννης ο Πρόδρομος αναδείχθηκε όντως ο "σεβασμιώτερος" απ' όλους τους Προφήτας, όχι μόνο για την αγιότητα του βίου του και το μαρτυρικό του τέλος, όχι μόνο γιατί είδε τον "κηρυττόμενον", μα και γιατί αξιώθηκε να τον βαπτίση. Μέσα σ' όλες τις προνομίες, με τις οποίες ο Θεός ετίμησε τον Ιωάννη, εκείνος έμεινε πάντα με τη βαθειά συναίσθηση πως ήταν ο λύχνος απέναντι στο φως, ο υπηρέτης εμπρός στον Δεσπότη, ο άνθρωπος ενώπιον του Θεού. Ας μην το ξεχνούμε εμείς οι απλοί κι αμαρτωλοί, που αξιωθήκαμε να υπηρετούμε στο έργο της σωτηρίας των ανθρώπων. Ο Ιωάννης έλεγε "Εκείνον δει αυξάνειν, εμέ δε ελαττούσθαι".
Σύναξις (Πανήγυρις) Ἁγίου Ἰωάννου τοῦ Προδρόμου
Ἦταν γιὸς τοῦ ἱερέα Ζαχαρία καὶ τῆς Ἐλισάβετ. Μέχρι τὰ τριάντα του χρόνια, ζεῖ ἀσκητικὴ ζωὴ στὴν ἔρημο τῆς Ἰουδαίας, ἀφιερωμένη ὁλοκληρωτικὰ στὴν προσευχή, τὴν μελέτη καὶ τὴν πνευματικὴ καὶ ἠθικὴ τελειοποίηση, ποὺ εἶναι βασικοὶ παράγοντες γιὰ τὴν ἐκτέλεση ὑψηλῶν καὶ θείων ὑπουργημάτων. Τὸ ῥοῦχο του ἦταν ἀπὸ τρίχες καμήλας, στὴ μέση του εἶχε δερμάτινη ζώνη καὶ τὴν τροφή του ἀποτελοῦσαν ἀκρίδες καὶ ἄγριο μέλι. Μὲ μορφὴ ἡλιοκαμένη, σοβαρός, ἀξιοπρεπὴς καὶ δυναμικός, ὁ Ἰωάννης φανέρωνε ἀμέσως φυσιογνωμία ἔκτακτη καὶ ὑπέροχη. Εἶχε ὅλα τὰ προσόντα μεγάλου καὶ ἐπιβλητικοῦ κήρυκα τοῦ θείου λόγου. Ἔτσι, μὲ μεγάλη χάρη κήρυττε «τὰ πλήθη». Κατακεραύνωνε καὶ κτυποῦσε σκληρὰ τὴν φαρισαϊκὴ ἀλαζονικὴ ἔπαρση, ποὺ κάτω ἀπὸ τὸ ἐξωτερικὸ ἔνδυμα τῆς ψευτοαγιότητας ἔκρυβε τὶς πιὸ ἀηδιαστικὲς πληγὲς ψυχικῆς σκληρότητας καὶ ἀκαθαρσίας. Γενικά, ἡ διδασκαλία του συνοψίζεται στὴ χαρακτηριστικὴ φράση του: «Μετανοεῖτε· ἤγγικε γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν», προετοιμάζοντας, ἔτσι, τὸ δρόμο τοῦ Κυρίου μας Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ γιὰ τὸ σωτήριο ἔργο Του. Ὅταν ὁ Χριστὸς ἄρχισε τὴν δημόσια δράση του, ὁ κόσμος ἄφηνε σιγὰ-σιγὰ τὸν Ἰωάννη καὶ ἀκολουθοῦσε Αὐτόν. Ἡ ἀντιστροφὴ αὐτή, βέβαια, θὰ προκαλοῦσε μεγάλη πίκρα καὶ θὰ γεννοῦσε ἀγκάθια ζήλειας καὶ φθόνου σ᾿ ἕναν, ἐκτὸς χριστιανικοῦ πνεύματος, διδάσκαλο ἢ φιλόσοφο. Ἀντίθετα, στὸν Ἰωάννη προκάλεσε μεγάλη χαρὰ καὶ εὐφροσύνη. Ἡ γιορτὴ αὐτὴ τοῦ Ἰωάννου τοῦ Προδρόμου, γιὰ τὸν ὁποῖο ὁ Κύριος εἶπε ὅτι κανεὶς ἄνθρωπος δὲ στάθηκε μεγαλύτερός του, καθιερώθηκε τὸν 5ο μ.Χ. αἰῶνα. Τὸ δὲ μαρτυρικό του τέλος γιορτάζουμε σὲ ἄλλη ἡμερομηνία, ὅπου καὶ θὰ ἀναφερθοῦμε.
Θαῦμα Προδρόμου στὴ Χῖο κατὰ τῶν Ἀγαρηνῶν
Συνεγράφη ἀπὸ τὸν Ἱεροδιδάσκαλο Ἀθανάσιο Πάριο. Βλέπε «Νέον Λειμωνάριον».
Ὁ Ἅγιος Ἀθανάσιος ἐξ Ἀτταλείας
Ὁ νεομάρτυρας αὐτὸς ζοῦσε στὴ Σμύρνη καὶ ἔκανε παρέα μὲ Ὀθωμανούς, ποὺ συνεχῶς τὸν κορόϊδευαν γιὰ τὴν πίστη του. Ἂν καὶ ἀγράμματος, ὁ Ἀθανάσιος ἀπαντοῦσε εὔστοχα στὶς κοροϊδίες αὐτές, ἔτσι ὥστε οἱ Ὀθωμανοὶ πολλὲς φορὲς ἔμεναν ἄφωνοι. Κάποια μέρα ὁ Ἀθανάσιος ἀκούστηκε νὰ λέει στὰ τούρκικα τὴν φράση «Δόξα τῷ Θεῷ» (Λάι λαλᾷ). Συνελήφθη λοιπὸν ἀπὸ τοὺς πιὸ πάνω Ὀθωμανούς, μὲ τὴν αἰτιολογία ὅτι δῆθεν μὲ τὴν φράση του αὐτή, ὁμολόγησε πίστη στὸν Μωάμεθ. Καὶ ἔτσι ὁδηγήθηκε στὸ κριτήριο. Ἐπειδὴ ὅμως δὲν ὑπέκυπτε στὶς ἀξιώσεις τοῦ Ἱεροδικαστῆ νὰ ἐξισλαμιστεῖ, ἀποκεφαλίστηκε τὴν 7η Ἰανουαρίου 1700 στὴ Σμύρνη, μετὰ ἀπὸ φρικτὰ βασανιστήρια πολλῶν ἡμερῶν. Μετὰ ἀπὸ τρεῖς ἡμέρες καὶ μὲ ἄδεια τοῦ κριτῆ, χριστιανοὶ παρέλαβαν τὸ Ἱερὸ λείψανο καὶ τὸ ἔθαψαν μὲ τιμὲς στὸν ναὸ τῆς Ἁγίας Παρασκευῆς.
Ἡ εἰς Κωνσταντινούπολιν μετένεξις τῆς παντίμου χειρὸς τοῦ Προδρόμου
Γι᾿ αὐτὴ οἱ Συναξαριστὲς ἀφηγοῦνται τὰ ἑξῆς: Ὅταν ὁ Εὐαγγελιστὴς Λουκᾶς πῆγε στὴν πόλη Σεβαστή, ὅπου τάφηκε ὁ Πρόδρομος, παρέλαβε ἀπὸ τὸν τάφο του τὸ δεξί του χέρι, τὸ μετέφερε στὴν Ἀντιόχεια, ὅπου χάριτι θεοῦ ἐπιτελοῦσε πολλὰ θαύματα. Ἀπὸ τὴν Ἀντιόχεια, τὸ Ἱερὸ χέρι, μετακομίστηκε στὴν Κωνσταντινούπολη τὸ 957, ἀπὸ τὸν διάκονο Ἰώβ, κατὰ τὴν ὥρα ποὺ γινόταν ὁ ἁγιασμὸς στ᾿ ἀνάκτορα, ὅπου καὶ ἐναποτέθηκε, ἀφοῦ ὁ βασιλιὰς τὸ ἀσπάστηκε.
The Synaxis of the Venerable and Illustrious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John.
On the day after a great Feast we usually honor the servant of the Mystery; today we honor him who baptized the Lord: the blessed Forerunner, "greatest of the Prophets, most noble of those born of women, voice of the Word, herald of Grace, swallow presaging the spiritual spring, torch and beacon of the divine Light, spiritual dawn announcing the Sun of Righteousness, and as terrestrial angel and celestial man, stationed at the border of heaven and earth, uniting the Old and the New Testaments" (Synaxarion).
New Martyr Athanasius of Attalia (1700)
A native of Attalia, he lived in Smyrna. Once he unguardedly spoke the opening words of the Muslim confession of faith, "There is no god but God." Hearing this, some Turks immediately surrounded him and took him to the court, claiming that he had embraced Islam. This he vehemently denied, assuring them that he was a Christian and that the words he had spoken would be unremarkable to any Christian. He was thrown into prison as an apostate and, after a sham trial, beheaded. His body was thrown to the dogs, but the usually voracious animals refused to touch his body, and it was removed by some pious Christians and given honorable burial.
Our Venerable Father Cedd, Bishop of Essex and Abbot of Lastingham (664)
He and his brother Chad (Mar. 2) were from an English family, educated under Saint Aidan (Aug. 31) of Lindisfarne. Both brothers entered monastic life at Lindisfarne and later became bishops. Cedd travelled as an evangelist among the people of Essex, where Saint Finan (Feb. 17) consecrated him to be their first bishop. He founded two monasteries in Essex, one of whose churches still stands; he built yet another monastery at Lastingham in Yorkshire, where he lived until his repose. He spoke both Irish and Anglo-Saxon, and served as a translator for the Irish at the Synod of Whitby in 664. He reposed at Lastingham not long after the Synod.
ASSEMBLAGE ("SOBOR" OR SYNAXIS") OF THE FORERUNNER AND BAPTIST OF THE LORD, JOHN.
In the Orthodox Church the custom was established, that on the day following the Great Feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God, would be remembered those saints who most essentially participated in whichever the sacred event. And thus, on the day following after the Theophany of the Lord, the Church honours he that participated directly in the Baptism of Christ, indeed placing his own hand upon the head of the Saviour. Saint John, the holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, termed by our Lord the greatest of the prophets, both concludes the history of the Old Testament and opens up the epoch of the New Testament. The holy Prophet John gave witness concerning the arrival on earth of the Only-Begotten Son of God, incarnated humanly in the flesh. Saint John was deemed worthy to baptise Him in the waters of the Jordan and he was a witness of the Theophany or Manifestation of the MostHoly Trinity on the day of the Baptism of the Saviour. The holy Prophet John was a kinsman of the Lord on His mother's side, the son of the Priest Zachariah and Righteous Elizabeth. The holy Forerunner of the Lord, John, was born six months earlier than Christ Jesus. The Archangel Gabriel was the messenger of his birth, in the Jerusalem Temple revealing to his father, that for him a son was to be born. Through the prayers offered up beforehand, the child was filled with the Holy Spirit. Saint John prepared himself in the wilds of the desert for his great service by a strict life, by fasting, prayer and sympathy for the fate of God's people. At the age of about 30 years he came forth preaching repentance. He appeared at the banks of the Jordan, by his preaching to prepare the people for acceptance of the Saviour of the world. In the expression of churchly song, Saint John was a "bright morning star", whose gleaming outshone the shining of all the other stars, announcing the coming morning of the day of grace, illumined with the light of the spiritual Son, -- our Lord Jesus Christ. Having baptised the sinless Lamb of God, Saint John soon died a martyr's death, beheaded by the sword on orders of king Herod in fulfilling the request of his daughter Salome. (About Saint John the Baptist, vide: Mt. 3: 1-16, 11: 1-19, 14: 1-12; Mk. 1: 2-8, 6: 14-29; Lk. 1: 5-25, 39-80, 3: 1-20, 7: 18-35, 9: 7-9; Jn. 1: 19-34, 3: 22-26).
On this day is commemorated also the Transfer of the Right Hand of the holy Forerunner from Antioch to Tsargrad (956) and the Miracle of Saint John the Forerunner against the Hagarites (Mahometans) at Chios:
The body of Saint John the Baptist was buried in the Samaritan city of Sebasteia. The holy Evangelist Luke, in making the rounds preaching Christ in various cities and towns, came in time to Sebasteia, where they gave over to him the right hand of the holy Prophet John, the very hand with which he had baptised the Saviour. The Evangelist Luke took it with him to his native city of Antioch. When the Mahometans centuries later seized possession of Antioch, a deacon named Job transported the holy hand of the Forerunner from Antioch to Chalcedon. From there, on the very eve of the Theophany of the Lord, it was transferred to Constantinople (956) and kept thereafter. In the year 1200 the Russian pilgrim Dobrynya -- who was later to be come the holy Archbishop of Novgorod Antonii (Comm. 10 February), saw the right hand of the Forerunner in the imperial palaces. From the Acts of the Saints it is known, that in the year 1263 during the seizure of Constantinople by the Crusaders, the emperor Baldwin gave over one bone from the wrist of Saint John the Baptist to Ottonus de Cichon, who then gave it over to a Cistercian abbey in France. The right hand continued to be kept in Constantinople. And at the end of the XIV thru beginning XV Centuries the holy relic was seen at Constantinople in the Peribleptos monastery by the Russian pilgrims: Stefan Novgorodets, deacon Ignatii, the cantor Alexander and deacon Zosima. But with the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, sacred objects were gathered up at the whim of the conqueror and preserved in the imperial treasury, all locked up.
In the Acts of the Saints is presented clear testimony, that in the year 1484 the right hand of the holy Forerunner was given away by the son of the Mahometan sultan Bayazet to the Rhodes knights to gain their good-will, since a dangerous rival for Bayazet -- his own brother, had situated himself amongst them. And about this event there speaks also a contemporary participant, the Rhodes vice-chancellor Wilhelm Gaorsan Gallo. The Rhodes knights, having established their base on the island of Malta (in the Mediterranean Sea), then transferred to Malta the sacred relic they had received. When the Russian emperor Paul I (1796-1801) became grand-master of the Maltese Order in honour of the holy Prophet John, the right hand of the Baptist, part of the Life-Creating Cross and the Philermian Icon of the Mother of God were transferred in the year 1799 [because of the Napoleonic threat] from the island of Malta to Russia, to the chapel at Gatchina (Comm. 12 October). In the same year these sacred items were then transferred into the church in honour of the Saviour Icon Not-Made-by-Hand at the Winter palace. And for this feast was compiled a special service.
Besides the Assemblage ("Sobor" or "Synaxis") of the venerable glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates his memory on the following days: 23 September -- his Conception (2 B.C.); 24 June -- his Birth (1 B.C.); 29 August -- his Beheading (+ c. 32); 24 February -- the First (IV) and Second (452) Finding of the Head; the Third Finding of the Head (c. 850); 12 October -- the Transfer of the Right Hand from Malta to Gatchina (1799).
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
Because John's main role in his life was played out on the day of the Epiphany (Theophany), the Church from earliest times dedicated the day following Epiphany to his memory. To this feast is also linked the incident with the hand of the Forerunner. The Evangelist Luke desired to remove the body of John from Sebaste, where the great prophet was beheaded by Herod, to Antioch his place of birth. He succeeded though, in acquiring and translating only one hand which was preserved in Antioch until the tenth century after which it was transferred to Constantinople from where it disappeared during the time of the Turks.
Feasts of St. John are celebrated several times throughout the year, but this day, January 7, has the most Svecara. [That is, those Orthodox Serbs who honor St. John the Baptist as their Krsna Slava - Patron Saint. The Krsna Slava is the day that the Orthodox Serbs commemorate the baptism of their ancestors into Christianity]. Among the Gospel personalities who surround the Savior, John the Baptist occupies a totally unique place by the manner of his entry into the world as well as by the manner of his life in this world, by his role in baptizing people for repentance and for his baptizing the Messiah and, finally, by his tragic departure from this life. He was of such moral purity that, in truth, he could be called an angel [messenger] as Holy Scripture calls him rather than a mortal man. St. John differs from all other prophets especially in that he had that privilege of being able, with his hand, to show the world Him about Whom he prophesied.
It is said that every year on the feast of the saint, the bishop brought the hand of St. John before the people. Sometimes the hand appeared open and other times the hand appeared clenched. In the first case it signified a fruitful and bountiful year and, in the second case, it meant a year of unfruitfulness and famine.
2. THE HOLY MARTYR ATHANASIUS
This martyr of Christ was a simple and poor man but rich in faith and wise through the Spirit of God. Once, unintentionally, Athanasius entered into a debate about the Faith with a certain Turk. The Turk was educated and adroit with words, but Athanasius endeavored with all his strength to emphasize and to establish the truth of and preference for the Christian Faith over Islam. After that, they departed. The next day Athanasius was summoned before the judge. This Turk stood there as his accuser. When the judge called upon Athanasius to deny the Faith of Christ, as he allegedly made known to his companions a day earlier and to embrace Islam, Athanasius cried out: "I would rather die a thousand deaths before I would renounce the Faith of Christ." For that he was condemned to death and beheaded in the year 1700 A.D. in Smyrna. His body was buried in the Church of St. Parasceve in the same city.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT JOHN THE FORERUNNER AND BAPTIST
Thirty years of fasting and silence!
This, not even the mountain beasts can endure.
The lion alleviates his hunger with the music of roaring,
And the tree rustles when the wind approaches
And, you do not rustle neither roar nor moan,
Neither your lament nor your song through the wilderness echoed!
Tell me, are you a man? What is your name?
Will you ever want to speak with someone?
Voice, voice, voice, I am the voice; but the Word of God, He is,
To the children of Israel, I was sent to cry out:
Repent, O people, behold, He comes,
Bring forth good fruit, each according to your strength.
Behold, behold He comes; O Wonder of Wonders,
In the midst of the water, from heaven, a hidden fire!
Behold, the Lamb of God, among the wolves, walks;
Wolves, your lupine temper, in the water, cleanse!
Thirty years of silence and fasting,
Of your body, what remains; except your voice?
Your withered body is but a shadow of your voice,
Which proclaims the news: Behold, God comes to us!
Your withered body, a reed; that Herod broke
But the voice continues, continues; no one to silence it.
Whose voice is that? From whom even the centuries tremble?
A hungry lion! No, No - a man of faith.
St. Basil the Great said, "Man is not something visible." Just as a house resembles a house, so the outward man resembles the outward appearance of a man. To the house is given honor according to the one who dwells in the house; so it is to man according to the spirit that dwells in him. In the physical sense it is obvious that the house is not the master but just a house in which the master dwells, but in the spiritual sense it is obvious that the body is not the man but only the house in which the man dwells.
To contemplate the departure of the Lord to the Mount of Temptation:
1. How, after His baptism, He immediately directs Himself to fasting and to prayer;
2. How to a baptized man, the devil creates intrigue, especially during the time of fasting and of prayer;
3. How He, meek as a lamb, yet decisively as the master rejects all the temptations of the devil.
About submission to the Will of God
"Your will be done, on earthas in heaven" (St. Matthew 6:10).
Blessed be John the Baptist, for he fulfilled the Good News before the arrival of the Good News! Going into the wilderness, he gave himself up completely to the will of God, both body and soul. The will of God was carried out in his body on earth as well as in the heaven of his soul. Neither hunger nor wild beasts did harm his body throughout the many years that he spent in the wilderness. Neither was his soul harmed by despair because of loneliness, nor pride because of heavenly visions. He did not seek from man either bread or knowledge. God granted him everything that was necessary for him because he gave himself up completely to the will of God.
Neither did he direct his footsteps in the wilderness nor away from the wilderness. An invisible rudder from on high steered his life. For when it was necessary for him to depart the wilderness and go out to meet the Lord, it is said: "The Word of God came to John" (St. Luke 3:2). As an innocent youth, in this manner John spoke simply about his communication with the powers of heaven: "And I did not know Him [Christ] but the One Who sent me to baptize with water told me, `On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, He is the One Who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God"
(St. John 1: 33-34). How tenderly and simply he speaks about heavenly things! How he is as awesome as a lion when he speaks out against the injustice of men, against Herod and Herodias! The lamb and the lion dwell in him together. Heaven is as close to him as a mother is to her child. The will of God is as accessible and clear to him as the angels in heaven.
O Lord, Most-wise, direct the lives of us sinners in the wilderness of this life according to Your will as You directed the life of St. John the Baptist.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.