Our Patron Saint - Saint John the Baptist
Our parish was founded under the patronage of the Glorious Prophet and Forerunner, Saint John the Baptist. He is referred to as the Forerunner because he announced Jesus of Nazareth as Christ the Messiah. He was an ascetic and a great prophet, who baptized Jesus and became one of the most revered saints in the Holy Orthodox Church. He is sometimes called the Angel of the Desert; because of this title, he is sometimes depicted in Iconography with wings. He was beheaded by Herod in the first century to satisfy the request of Herod's stepdaughter, Salome, and wife Herodias.
Isaiah 40:3-5 is commonly read as a prophecy of Saint John. His father, Zacharias, was a priest of the tribe of Abia (1 Chr. 24:10), and his mother, Elizabeth, was of the daughters of Aaron (Luke 1:5). John held the priesthood of Aaron, giving him the authority to perform baptisms.
His birth took place six months before that of Jesus, and according to the Gospel account was expected by prophecy (Matt. 3:3; Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1) and foretold by an angel. Zacharias lost his power of speech because of his unbelief over the birth of his son, and had it restored on the occasion of John's circumcision (Luke 1:64).
Saint John was a Nazarite from his birth (Luke 1:15; Num. 6:1-12). He spent his early years in the mountainous tract of Judea lying between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea (Matt. 3:1-12). He led a simple life, wearing course clothing and eating " locust and wild honey" (Matt. 3:4).
As an adult Saint John started to preach in public, and people from "every quarter" were attracted to his message. The essence of his preaching was the necessity of repentance and turning away from selfish pursuits. He denounced the Sadducees and Pharisees as a "generation of vipers," and warned them not to assume their heritage gave them special privilege (Luke 3:8). He warned tax collectors and soldiers against extortion and plunder. His doctrine and manner of life stirred interest, bringing people from all parts to see him on the banks of the Jordan River. There he baptized thousands unto repentance.
The activity of Saint John reached the ears of Jesus in Nazareth (Matt. 3:5), and He came from Galilee to Jordan to be baptized by John, to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). Saint John's special office ceased with the baptism of Jesus, who must now "increase" as the King has come to his kingdom. He continued, however, for a while to bear testimony to the Messiahship of Jesus. He pointed him out to his disciples, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God." His public ministry was suddenly brought to a close by his being cast into prison by Herod, whom he had reproved for the sin of having taken to himself the wife of his brother Philip (Luke 3:19). He was shut up in the castle of Machaerus, a fortress on the southern extremity of Peraea, 9 miles east of the Dead Sea, and here he was beheaded at the instigation of Herodias His disciples, having consigned the headless body to the grave, went and told Jesus all that had occurred (Matt. 14:3-12).
Jesus himself testified regarding John that he was a "burning and a shining light" (John 5:35). John was the last of the Old Testament prophets, thus serving as a bridge figure between that period of revelation and Jesus. Following his death, John descended into Hell and there once more preached that Jesus the Messiah was coming to those in hades, thus fulling the role as Forerunner of the Lord
Tradition holds that the Head of the Baptist was first buried atop the Mount of Olives. In the place of the current location of the Church of the Ascension. There is a depression in the ancient tile floor, marking the location of the “Burial and finding of the head of the Baptist”. This is a special place of veneration to this day. The Holy Orthodox Church keeps two days of commemoration for the Finding of the Head of the Baptist. Having beheaded Saint John, Herod had his head buried secretly on his property. Herod had a fear and reverence for Saint John as a Holy Man, this was why he did not execute him but rather kept him imprisoned. It was in a drunken, prideful and passion filled moment that he ordered the beheading. After many years, this property passed into the possession of a government official who became a monk with the name of Innocent. He built a church and a cell there. When he started to dig the foundation, the vessel with the venerable head of John the Baptist was uncovered. Innocent recognized its great holiness from the signs of grace emanating from it. This the First Finding of the Head. Innocent preserved it with great piety, but fearful that the holy relic might be abused by unbelievers, before his own death he again hid it in that same place, where it was found. Upon his death the church fell into ruin and was destroyed. In the year 452 Saint John the Baptist appeared to Archimandrite Marcellus, and indicated where his head was hidden. This became celebrated as the Second Finding. The holy relic was transferred to Emesa, and later to Constantinople. The venerable head of the holy Forerunner was lost for a third time as persecuted Christian’s often hid precious vessels and relics from the enemies of God. This time, rediscovered in Comana of Cappadocia through a revelation to 'a certain priest, but it was found not, as before, in a clay jar, but in a silver vessel, and "in a sacred place." It was taken from Comana to Constantinople and was met with great solemnity by the Emperor, the Patriarch, and the clergy and people. Saint John is comemerated on 6 calendar days of the year:
Feast Days according to the Julian (old)Calendar:
|January 20||Synaxis of the Baptist|
|March 8||First & Second Finding of the Head of Saint John|
|June 7||Third Finding of the Head of Saint John the Baptist|
|July 7||Nativity of Saint John the Baptist|
|September 11||Beheading of Saint John the Baptist|
|October 6||Conception of Saint John the Baptist|
Hymnography of Saint John the Baptist:
Synaxis of Saint John the Baptist
Troparion Tone 2 The remembrance of the Just is worthy of praise,/ but the Lord’s testimony is enough for you, O Forerunner;/ for it has shown that you are indeed more worthy of honor than the Prophets./ You were found worthy to baptize in the waters the One Whom you foretold./ For this, you suffered for the truth,/ and rejoicing, also announced the good news to those in the realm of death/ that God had appeared to man/ taking away the sins of the world// and granting to all of us His great mercy.
First and Second finding of the Head of Saint John
Troparion Tone 4 The Forerunner's sacred head, having dawned forth from the earth/, doth send incorruption's rays unto the faithful,/ whereby they find healings of their ills./ From on high he gathereth the choirs of the Angels/ and on earth he summoneth the whole race of mankind,/ that they with one voice// might send up glory to Christ our God.
Kontakion Tone 2 Since we have obtained thy head as a most sacred rose from out of the earth,/ O Forerunner of grace divine,/ we receive sure healing in every hour,/ O Prophet of God the Lord;// for again, now as formerly, thou preachest repentance unto all the world.
Third Finding of the Head of Saint John the Baptist
Troparion Tone 4 As a divine treasure hidden in the ground/Was your head revealed to us by Christ, O prophet and forerunner./We have gathered in commemoration of this finding
With inspired hymns of praise to the Savior,//Who saves us from corruption through your prayers!
Kontakion Tone 4 By giving your venerable head to a sinful woman,/Herod broke the law of God./But we behold it and cry out for joy,/And say to you, O forerunner://Pray to the Lord that He may grant mercy to us all!
The Nativity of Saint John
Troparion Tone 4 O Prophet and Forerunner of the coming of Christ,/ we honour thee lovingly but cannot extol thee worthily;/ for by thy birth/ thy mother's barrenness and thy father's dumbness were unloosed;/ and the Incarnation of the Son of God is proclaimed to the world.
Kontakion Tone 3 The formerly barren one today gives birth to the Forerunner of Christ/ Who is the fulfillment of prophecy./ For the Prophet, Herald and Forerunner of the Word/ submitted to Him Whom the prophets foretold/ by laying his hand on Him in the Jordan.
Beheading of Saint John the Baptist
Kontakion Tone 5 The beheading of the glorious Forerunner was a divine dispensation that the coming of the Savior might be preached to those in hell. Lament then, Herodias, that thou didst demand a murder despising the law of God and eternal life.
Conception of Saint John the Baptist
Troparion Tone 4- Podoben Be glad, O barren one who has not given birth until now, / for behold, you have conceived the lamp of the Sun, / and He shall enlighten all the earth, which is afflicted with blindness. / Dance, O Zachariah, and cry out with boldness: / The Prophet of the Most High is about to be born.
Kontakion Tone 1- Podoben The great and renowned Zachariah rejoices radiantly, / and exults with his wife Elizabeth; / for worthily does she conceive John the Baptist, / whom the Archangel announced joyously, / and men honor as an initiate of grace.