The Finding Of The Head Of Saint John The Baptist The great and glorious Baptist John was beheaded at the wish and instigation of the wicked Herodias, the wife of Herod. When John was beheaded, Herodias ordered that his head not be buried with his body, for she feared that this awesome prophet would somehow resurrect. Therefore, she took his head and buried it deep in the ground in a secluded and dishonorable place. Her maidservant was Joanna, the wife of Chuza, a courtier of Herod. The good and devout Joanna could not tolerate that the head of the man of God should remain in this dishonorable place. Secretly she unearthed it, took it to Jerusalem and buried it on the Mount of Olives. Not knowing of this, King Herod became frightened when he learned of Jesus and how He worked great miracles, and said: It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:16). After a considerable period of time, an eminent landowner came to faith in Christ, left his position and the vanity of the world and became a monk, taking the name Innocent. As a monk, he took up his abode on the Mount of Olives, in the exact place where the head of the Baptist was buried. Wanting to build a cell for himself, he dug deep and discovered an earthen vessel containing a head, which was mysteriously revealed to him to be the head of the Baptist. He reverenced it and reburied it in the same spot. Later, according to God’s providence, this miracle-working head traveled from place to place, then sank into the darkness of forgetfulness and was again rediscovered. Finally, at the time of Patriarch Ignatius, during the reign of the pious Empress Theodora (the mother of Michael and the wife of Theophilus), it was translated to Constantinople. Many miraculous healings occurred from the head of the Forerunner. It is important and interesting to note that, while he was still alive, John did no miracle (John 10:41), but that his relics have been endowed with miraculous power.
The Venerable Erasmus Erasmus was a monk in the Monastery of the Kiev Caves. He inherited great wealth from his parents and spent it all on adorning churches, especially on silver-plating and gilding icons. When he had become impoverished and was left without anything, he was despised by all. The devil whispered to him that he squandered his estate in vain: instead of distributing his wealth among the poor, he had given it for the adornment of churches. Erasmus succumbed to this temptation and believed it. Because of this he came to despise himself, fell into a state of despair and began to live aimlessly and lawlessly. When the hour of his death approached, the brethren assembled around him and discussed his sins, of which he himself was not conscious. All at once he straightened up in bed and said: “Fathers and brothers, it is as you say: I am sinful and unrepentant, but behold, Saints Anthony and Theodosius appeared to me, and after that the All-holy Mother of God, and they told me that the Lord has given me more time for repentance.” The Mother of God also spoke these encouraging words to him: “The poor you have with you in every place, but my churches you do not.” Erasmus lived for three more days, repented and fell asleep in the Lord. This teaches us that zeal for the Church and adornment of the churches is a task pleasing to God. St. Erasmus reposed in the year 1160 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise Saint John The Baptist To John, let us pray: The glorious Baptizer, The trumpet of the Savior, The servant of the Creator, Sent by God to help us However he can. To John, awesome and holy, Let us pray, So that through him God the Most High will help us. Help us, O John, Wherever danger threatens! To preserve the Faith, O John, help us: That we may be bread All our days and unto the end, That in every sheaf we may see, The footstep of God! When night falls, let it dawn. O John, help us sinners, That we may repent Before we reach the end, Before the Day of Judgment dawns, O John, help us!*)
*) A traditional Serbian toast honoring St. John the Baptist.–Trans.
Reflection Those who do everything for us according to our will are neither our good teachers nor our good friends. St. John Moschus writes about a prominent woman of a senatorial family who visited the Holy Land. Arriving in Caesarea, she decided to remain there and turned to the bishop with this request: “Give me a maiden to teach me the fear of God.” The bishop introduced her to a humble virgin. After a period of time, the bishop met that woman and asked her: “How is the virgin to whom I introduced you?” “She is good,” replied the woman, “but she is of little benefit to my soul, because she is humble and allows me to do my own will. I need her to reproach me and not allow me to do whatever I want.” The bishop then gave her another girl, of a very coarse character, who began to rebuke the woman, calling her a senseless rich woman and the like. After some time, the bishop again asked the woman: “And that maiden, how does she conduct herself with you?” “She truly benefits my soul,” replied the senator’s wife. And so she became very meek. (Excerpted from The Spiritual Meadowby St. John Moschus.)
Contemplation Contemplate the Lord Jesus as a stumbling block:
- For sinful self-conceit, i.e., for the perverted mind of mankind, which thinks in a sensual and fleshy way and opposes the mind of Christ;
- For sinful self-love, i.e., for the perverted heart of man which does not accept in itself either the love of God or the love of man;
- For sinful self-will, i.e., for the perverted will of man, which opposes the will of God.
Homily on repentance and the forgiveness of sins “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name” (Luke 24:47). This is the final instruction of the Savior to the holy apostles. In these words, as in a nutshell, is contained the Gospel of reconciliation between God and men. What does God seek from men and what does God give them? He seeks repentance, and He grants forgiveness of sins. He seeks little, but He gives all. Let men only repent for sins committed and cease sinning, and men will receive all from God–all, not only all that their hearts could desire, but even more, much more. In truth, everything is promised to the righteous. The righteous will be the inheritors of the Kingdom of God, they will be the sons of God, and they will be the children of light, the children of immortality, companions of the angels, brothers of Christ. The righteous will have an abundance of life, peace, wisdom, power, and joy. The righteous will have all, for all has been promised to them. Let men only repent, and they will receive all. Let the beggar only cleanse himself, bathe himself and clothe himself in purity before the doors of the royal court, and he will be immediately ushered into the royal court. There he will be met and embraced by the King, and he will have all. He will live with the King, and sit at the royal table; he will have all, all, all! O my brethren, these are not only words, rather this is the living and holy truth. For we know that many penitents, both female and male, received all of this that was promised. Many have appeared from the other world and have proved the truth of these words, witnessing to how they now live as royal sons and daughters. But they repented in time; and there yet remains time for us to repent, if we desire to be together with them as the heirs of the Kingdom. O Merciful Lord, help us to repent before death, in order that we may live eternally. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.