The Memory of the just is observed with hymns of praise; for you, suffices the testimony of the Lord, O Forerunner. You have proved to be truly more vernerable than the prophets, since you were granted to baptize in the river the One Whom they proclaimed. Therefore, when for the truth you had contested, rejoicing, to those in Hades you preached the Gospel, that God was manifested in the flesh, and takes away the sins of the world, and grants to us the great mercy.Apolytikion of St. John the Baptist
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the Orthodox Church it is customary, on the day following the Great Feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God, to remember those saints who participated directly in the sacred event. So, on the day following the Theophany of the Lord, the Church honors the one who participated directly in the Baptism of Christ, placing his own hand upon the head of the Savior. Therefore, tomorrow we commemorate the primary Feast of John the Baptizer.
Saint John, the holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, whom the Lord called the greatest of the prophets, concludes the history of the Old Testament and opens the era of the New Testament. The holy Prophet John bore witness to the Only-Begotten Son of God, incarnate in the flesh. Saint John was accounted worthy to baptize Him in the waters of the Jordan, and he was a witness of the Theophany of the Most Holy Trinity on the day of the Savior’s Baptism.
The holy Prophet John, the son of the Priest Zachariah and Righteous Elizabeth, was related to the Lord on His mother’s side. The holy Forerunner, John, was born six months before Christ. The Archangel Gabriel announced his birth in the Temple at Jerusalem, revealing to Zachariah that a son was to be born to him.
Through the prayers offered 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 thirty, he came forth preaching repentance. He appeared on the banks of the Jordan, to prepare the people by his preaching to accept the Savior of the world. In church hymnology, Saint John is called a “bright morning star,” whose gleaming outshone the brilliance of all the other stars, announcing the coming dawn of the day of grace, illumined with the light of the spiritual Sun, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Having baptized the sinless Lamb of God, Saint John soon died a martyr’s death, beheaded by the sword on orders of King Herod at the request of his daughter Salome. (On Saint John the Baptist, see Mt.3:1-16, 11:1-19, 14:1-12; Mark 1:2-8, 6:14-29; Luke 1:5-25, 39-80, 3:1-20, 7:18-35, 9:7-9; John 1:19-34, 3:22-26).
Thank you to all who participated in today’s Teaching Divine Liturgy and who celebrated with us, the Feast of Theophany.
Please be reminded that next week the Philoptochos will celebrate their annual Vasilopita Celebration.
Lastly, please be aware that the 2024 Parish Council will receive their Oath of Office tomorrow following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Please pray for these servant-leaders who dedicate themselves to the function, well-being and ministry of our sacred parish.
With Love in our One Triune God,
Fr. Anthony Savas