Prologue entry for 01/07/23 (read on 01/20/23 on the Old Calendar)
1. Saint John The Baptist
Because John’s main role in his life was played out on the day of the Theophany (Epiphany), the Church has from earliest times dedicated the day following Theophany to his memory. An incident with the hand of the Forerunner is also linked to this feast. The Evangelist Luke desired to remove the body of John from Sebaste, where the great prophet was beheaded by Herod, to Antioch, his place of birth. He succeeded, though, in acquiring and translating only one hand, which was preserved in Antioch until the tenth century. After this it was transferred to Constantinople, where it disappeared during the time of the Turks. Feasts of St. John are celebrated several times throughout the year, but this day, January 7, has the most Svečara.1 Among the Gospel personalities who surround the Savior, John the Baptist occupies a totally unique place by the manner of his entry into the world, and by the manner of his life in this world; by his role in baptizing people for repentance; by his baptizing the Messiah; and, finally, by his tragic departure from this life. He was of such moral purity that, in truth, he could be called an angel–as Holy Scripture calls him–rather than a mortal man. St. John especially differs from all other prophets in that he had that privilege of being able, with his hand, to show the world Him about Whom he prophesied. It is said that every year on the feast of the saint, the bishop brought the hand of St. John before the people. Sometimes the hand appeared open and other times the hand appeared clenched. In the first case it signified a fruitful and bountiful year, and in the second case it meant a year of unfruitfulness and famine.
1: That is, those Orthodox Serbs who honor St. John the Baptist as their Krsna Slava, or the Patron Saint of their family. The Krsna Slava is the day on which Orthodox Serbian families commemorate the baptism of their ancestors into Christianity.–Trans.
2. The Holy Martyr Athanasius
This martyr of Christ was a man simple and poor, but rich in faith and wise through the Spirit of God. Once, Athanasius unintentionally entered into a debate about the Faith with a certain Turk. The Turk was educated and adroit with words, but Athanasius endeavored with all his strength to emphasize and establish the truth of the Christian Faith and its superiority over Islam. After that they departed. The next day Athanasius was summoned before the judge. This Turk stood there as his accuser. When the judge called upon Athanasius to deny the Faith of Christ, as he had supposedly done before his companion the previous day, and to embrace Islam, Athanasius cried out: “I would rather die a thousand deaths than renounce the Faith of Christ.” For this, he was condemned to death and beheaded in the year 1700 A.D., in Smyrna. His body was buried in the Church of St. Parasceva in the same city.
Hymn Of Praise
Saint John The Forerunner And Baptist
Thirty years of fasting and silence—
This, not even the mountain beasts can endure!
The lion alleviates his hunger with the music of roaring,
And the tree rustles when the wind approaches.
But you neither rustle, nor moan.
Neither your lament nor your song through the wilderness echoes!
Tell me, are you a man? What is your name?
Will you ever want to speak with someone?
"The voice, the voice, the voice: I am the voice—
But the Word of God, He is.
To the children of Israel I was sent to cry out:
Repent, O people; behold, He comes.
Bring forth good fruit, each according to your strength.
Behold, behold He comes--oh, wonder of wonders!
In the midst of the water, fire from heaven is concealed!
Behold, the Lamb of God, among the wolves, walks.
Wolves, your lupine temper in the water, cleanse!"
Thirty years of silence and fasting:
Of your body, what remains, save your voice?
Your withered body is but a shadow of your voice,
Which proclaims the news: Behold, God is come to us!
Your withered body was a reed, which Herod broke.
But the voice goes on and on, with no one to silence it.
Whose voice is that, at which even the centuries tremble?
A hungry lion! No, No—a man of faith.
St. Basil the Great said: “Man is not something visible.” Just as one house resembles another, so the outward appearance of one man resembles that of another. To the house is given honor according to the one who dwells in the house; so it is with man, according to the spirit that dwells in him. To the bodily sight, it is obvious that the house is not the master, but just a house in which the master dwells; but only to the spiritual sight is it obvious that the body is not the man, but only the house in which the man dwells.
Contemplate the departure of the Lord to the Mount of Temptation:
- How, after His baptism, He immediately directs Himself to fasting and to prayer;
- How, for a baptized man, the devil works his wile especially during the time of fasting and of prayer;
- How He–meek as a lamb, yet decisively, as the Master–rejects all the temptations of the devil.
on submission to the will of God
“Thy will be done, in earth as in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Blessed be John the Baptist, for he fulfilled the Gospel before the arrival of the Gospel! Going into the wilderness, he gave himself up completely to the will of God, both body and soul. The will of God was carried out in his body on earth as well as in the heaven of his soul. Neither hunger nor wild beasts did harm to his body throughout the many years that he spent in the wilderness. His soul was harmed neither by despair in loneliness nor by pride in heavenly visions. He sought neither bread nor knowledge from man. God granted him everything that was necessary for him, because he gave himself up completely to the will of God. He directed his footsteps neither into the wilderness nor away from the wilderness. An invisible rudder from on high steered his life. For when it was necessary for him to depart from the wilderness and go out to meet the Lord, it is said: The word of God came unto John (Luke 3:2). Like an innocent youth, John spoke simply about his communication with the powers of heaven: And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Spirit. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God (John 1:33-34). How tenderly and simply he speaks about heavenly things! How terrifying like a lion he is when he speaks out against the injustice of men, against Herod and Herodias! The lamb and the lion dwell in him together. Heaven is as close to him as a mother is to her child. The will of God is as accessible and clear to him as it is to the angels in heaven. O Lord, most wise, direct the lives of us sinners in the wilderness of this life according to Thy will, as Thou didst direct the life of St. John the Baptist. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.