The Nativity Of Saint John The Forerunner And Baptist Of The Lord Six months before his appearance in Nazareth to the All-holy Virgin Mary, the great archangel of God, Gabriel, appeared to Zacharias the high priest in the Temple at Jerusalem. Before announcing the miraculous conception by the unwedded virgin [Mary], the archangel announced the miraculous conception by the childless old woman [Elizabeth]. Zacharias did not immediately believe the words of the herald of God, and thus his tongue was bound by dumbness and it remained thus until eight days after the birth of John. On that day the relatives of Zacharias and Elizabeth gathered for the young child’s circumcision and naming. When they asked the father what name he wished to give to his son, since he was mute he wrote on a tablet: “John.” At that moment his tongue became loosed and he began to speak. The home of Zacharias was on the heights between Bethlehem and Hebron. The news of the appearance of the angel of God to Zacharias was spread throughout all of Israel, as well as that of his dumbness and the loosing of his tongue at the moment when he wrote the name “John.” The news concerning this even reached Herod. Therefore, when Herod sent soldiers to slay the children in Bethlehem, he directed men to the hills, to the dwelling place of the family of Zacharias, to kill John also. But Elizabeth promptly hid the child. Enraged at this, King Herod sent his executioners to Zacharias in the Temple to slay him (for it happened that it was again Zacharias’ turn to serve in the Temple of Jerusalem). Zacharias was slain between the court and the temple and his blood coagulated and petrified on the paving stones and remained a perpetual witness against Herod. Elizabeth hid with the child in a cave, where she died soon after. The young child John remained alone in the wilderness under the care of God and His angels.
Saint Nicetas, Bishop Of Remesiana Nicetas was a friend and the contemporary of St. Paulinus of Nola (January 23). It appears that he was a Slav and as such preached the Gospel among the Slavs in the region of Niš and Pirot. The extent of the change that St. Nicetas wrought among the Slavs is best shown in the hymn which St. Paulinus composed about St. Nicetas: O what a change! And how fortuitous! The impassible mountains, which once concealed bloodthirsty robbers, Now shelter monks; disciples of peace. Where once wild beasts were common, There are now the faces of angels. The righteous hide in caves in which evildoers once dwelt. The episcopal see of Nicetas was Remesiana, which some understand to be Pirot. In addition to his missionary labors, St. Nicetas also wrote several books, including six books on the Faith and a book about a fallen maiden (which roused many to repentance). Saint Nicetas reposed in the Lord in the fifth century. () () That Nicetas was a Slav and lived in Pirot is attested to by Archbishop Philaret of Chernigov in his book Saints of the Southern Slavs.
The Holy Martyrs Orentius, Pharnacius, Eros, Firmus, Firminus, Cyriacus And Longinus They were all brothers and Roman soldiers during the reign of Emperor Maximian. When the Romans were waging war against the Scythians beyond the Danube River, St. Orentius came forth to battle with Marathom, the Scythian Goliath, and slew him. Because of this, the entire Roman army offered sacrifices to the gods, but Orentius and his brothers declared that they were Christians and could not offer sacrifices to the deaf and dumb idols. Despite their military merits, they were condemned to exile in the Caspian region. However, along the way, all seven, one after the other, died from hunger and sufferings and took up their habitation in the Kingdom of Christ.
Hymn Of Praise
Saint John The Baptist
By a miracle of God John entered the world,
As once did Sarah’s and Abraham’s Isaac;
By a miracle of God he remained alive
From Herod’s bloody knife.
The knife, the young child John, missed,
But John’s father it did not miss.
By a miracle of God John sustained himself
For thirty years in the desert.
To a servant of God, angels are shepherds;
To the poor, angels are guardians!
John grew, a loveable lamb,
That he might serve the Lamb of God,
That he might proclaim the bright day before the sun.
The unknown One, he recognized and glorified.
Of the great prophets, he was the last,
And of God’s apostles, the beginning.
Like Elias, with God he spoke,
And like an apostle he loved and rebuked.
Of the high priest, wondrous son,
Of the martyrs of God, first-crowned brother.
One of the differences between the eloquent philosophy of the Greeks [Hellenes] and the Christian Faith is that Greek philosophy can clearly be expressed with words and comprehended by reading, while the Christian Faith cannot be clearly expressed by words, and still less can it be comprehended by reading alone. When you are expounding the Christian Faith, the example of the one who expounds it is indispensible; and for its understanding and acceptance, both reading and the practice of what is read are necessary. When Patriarch Photius read the words of St. Mark the Ascetic on the spiritual life, he noticed a certain lack of clarity in the author, about which he wisely said: “It [unclarity] does not proceed from the obscurity of expression but from the truth which is expressed there; it is better understood by means of practice (rather than by means of words) and cannot be explained by words only. And this,” the great patriarch adds, “is the case not only with these homilies, and not only with this man, but rather with all of those who attempt to expound the ascetic rules and instructions, which are better understood by deeds (in practice).”
To contemplate the miraculous recognition by the Elder Simeon the God-receiver: And he came by inspiration of the Spirit into the Temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him according to the custom of the Law: (St. Luke 2:27):
- How this holy elder recognized in the Spirit the helpless Child as Lord and Messiah, while the blinded scribes and priests did not recognize Him, either then or when He worked numerous miracles and revealed unheard-of wisdom;
- How my soul too, if it has grown old in sin, cannot recognize the Lord.
Against malicious rejoicing
“Rejoice not when your enemy falls; and when he stumbles, let not your heart exult” (Proverbs 24:17).
He is a man; do not rejoice in his fall. He is your brother; let not your heart leap for joy when he stumbles. God created him for life, and God does not rejoice in his fall. And you also, do not rejoice at that which grieves God. When a man falls, God loses; do you rejoice in the loss of your Creator, of your Parent? When the angels weep, do you rejoice? When your enemy falls, pray to God for him, that God will save him; and give thanks to God that you did not fall in the same manner. You are of the same material, both you and he, like two vessels from the hand of the potter. If one vessel breaks, should the other one smile and rejoice? Behold, the small stone that broke that vessel only waits for someone’s hand to raise it to destroy this vessel also. Both vessels are of the same material, and a small stone can destroy a hundred vessels. When one sheep is lost, should the rest of the flock rejoice? No, they should not. For behold, the shepherd leaves his flock and, being concerned, goes to seek the lost sheep. The shepherd’s loss is the flock’s loss too. Therefore, do not rejoice when your enemy falls, for your Shepherd and his Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, does not rejoice in his fall. O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou Good Shepherd, remove malicious joy from our hearts, and in its place plant compassion and brotherly love. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.