The Beheading of St John the Baptist
Commemorated on August 29th
St John was the forerunner of Christ, preparing the world for the Saviour. He is sometimes referred to as the Child of the Desert and the one who fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God (40: 4).
St John was born to Panagia’s cousin, Elizabeth, and Zachariah six months before Christ. The relationship between St John and Christ began from the womb, when Panagia visited Elizabeth and the unborn John leapt in his mother’s womb on seeing Panagia!
As an adult, St John lived an ascetic life dressed in camel skin and surviving on locusts and wild honey. When he encountered someone, he spoke of the need to repent and began baptising in God’s name in anticipation of the Christ who would baptise with the Holy Spirit. Christ himself, before embarking on his three-year ministry, approached His holy cousin to be baptised and declared John greatest amongst all (Mat 11:11).
Filled with divine courage, St John was unafraid to speak the truth, rebuking King Herod for his sinfulness in taking his brother’s wife as his own. This made Herodias, Herod’s new wife, furious. But Herod was aware of the high regard that many had for John, and did not act on his wife’s vengeful fury.
However, at the time of the King’s birthday, Herodias’ daughter from her first marriage, Salome, danced pleasingly for the guests. Herod wished to lavish her with any reward she requested even up to half of his kingdom. Salome sought her mother’s advice as to what gift to request. Herodias replied that she should request the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
The King was resistant, but knew he had made a promise that would be embarrassing to back out of. A soldier was then ordered to fulfill Herod’s command, and Salome presented her mother with the trophy.
St John is one of the greatest Saints, and is commemorated on four occasions throughout the ecclesiastical year: 7 January, 24 June (his birth), 23 September (his conception) and 25 May (the finding of his head).
Source: August-September 2015 Lychnos Edition