Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Greatest Man Born of Woman

Dear Parish Faithful,

This evening, at 6:00 p.m., we will serve the Vesperal Liturgy in commemoration of the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner (August 29).  Even though not numbered among the Twelve Great Feast Days of the liturgical year, there exists an entire cycle of feasts in honor of St. John:

September 23 – Conception of St. John
January 7 – Synaxis of St. John (his unique role in the Baptism of Christ)
June 24 – Nativity of St. John
August 29 – Beheading of St. John

As in the Feasts of the Lord and of the Mother of God, we actualize the major events in the life of the Forerunner and Baptist John, all of which are scripturally-based, and honor and reverence this greatest of the prophets called, by Christ, the “friend of the bridegroom.”  The Mother of God “fell asleep” in the Lord peacefully and surrounded by those who loved her and cared for her.  She fulfilled the type of death that we always pray for in the Liturgy:  “A Christian ending to our lives, painless, blameless and a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ our God.”   St. John, however, suffered a horribly violent death as he was beheaded by the order of Herod Antipas, a victim of the cruelty of his “wife” Herodias and the seductive maneuverings of her daughter Salome.  St. John had to walk along the lonely road of martyrdom in the end.  Yet, we can “celebrate” his death – violent though it was - because it was through his death that he continued to preach to those in Hades (the realm of the dead), awaiting deliverance from the Savior, a deliverance that came through Christ’s own death and resurrection.  The Risen Lord then brought St. John into His eternal Kingdom.   Both St. John and the Mother of God are considered the two greatest intercessors in the life of the Church. They are the two that flank the Risen and Glorified Christ in the icon of the Deisis , praying for the well-being of the members of the Body of Christ.

August 29 is a “strict fast day” because St. John was a great ascetic and because of the nature of his death.

Hopefully, we will honor St. John with a church full of worshippers this evening at 6:00 p.m.

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