The Beheading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John.
The divine Baptist, the Prophet born of a Prophet, the
seal of all the Prophets and begin≠ning of the Apostles, the mediator
between the Old and New Covenants, the voice of one crying in the
wilderness, the God-sent Messenger of the incarnate Messiah, the
forerunner of Christ's coming into the world (Esaias 40:3; Mal. 3:1);
who by many miracles was both con≠ceived and born; who was filled with
the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb; who came forth like
another Elias the Zealot, whose life in the wilderness and divine zeal
for God's Law he imitated: this divine Prophet, after he had preached
the baptism of repentance accord≠ing to God's command; had taught men
of low rank and high how they must order their lives; had admonished
those whom he baptized and had filled them with the fear of God,
teaching them that no one is able to escape the wrath to come if he do
not works worthy of repentance; had, through such preaching, prepared
their hearts to receive the evangelical teachings of the Saviour; and
finally, after he had pointed out to the people the very Saviour, and
said, "Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the
world" (St. Luke 3:2-18; St. John 1:29-36), after all this, John
sealed with his own blood the truth of his words and was made a sacred
victim for the divine Law at the hands of a transgressor.
This was Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee, the son of Herod the Great. This man had a lawful wife, the daughter of Arethas (or Aretas), the King of Arabia (that is, Arabia Petraea, which had the famous Nabatean stone city of Petra as its capital. This is the Aretas mentioned by Saint Paul in IICor. 11:32). Without any cause, and against every commandment of the Law, he put her away and took to himself Herodias, the wife of his deceased brother Philip, to whom Herodias had borne a daughter, Salome. He would not desist from this unlawful union even when John, the preacher of repentance, the bold and austere accuser of the lawless, cen≠sured him and told him, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife" (St. Mark 6:18). Thus Herod, besides his other unholy acts, added yet this, that he apprehended John and shut him in prison; and perhaps he would have killed him straightway, had he not feared the people, who had extreme reverence for John. Certainly, in the beginning, he himself had great rever≠ence for this just and holy man. But finally, being pierced with the sting of a mad lust for the woman Herodias, he laid his defiled hands on the teacher of purity on the very day he was celebrating his birthday. When Salome, Herodias' daughter, had danced in order to please him and those who were supping with him, he promised her-with an oath more foolish than any foolishness-that he would give her anything she asked, even unto the half of his kingdom. And she, consulting with her mother, straightway asked for the head of John the Baptist in a charger. Hence this transgressor of the Law, preferring his lawless oath above the precepts of the Law, fulfilled this godless promise and filled his loathsome banquet with the blood of the Prophet. So it was that that all-venerable head, revered by the Angels, was given as a prize for an abominable dance, and became the plaything of the dissolute daughter of a debauched mother. As for the body of the divine Baptist, it was taken up by his disciples and placed in a tomb (St. Mark 6:21-29). Concerning the finding of his holy head, see February 24 and May 25.
Rest from labour. A Fast is observed today,
of the week it may be.
Dismissal Hymn. Second Tone
memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lordís
testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner; for thou hast proved to
be truly even more venerable than the Prophets, since thou wast 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. Tone Five
glorious beheading of the Forerunner was a certain divine dispensation,
that the coming of the Saviour might also be preached to those in Hades.
Let Herodias lament, then, that she demanded a wicked murder; for she
loved not the Law of God, nor eternal life, but one false and fleeting.