Homily on the Feast of The Beheading of Saint John, the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord – Β
Saint Justin Popovich of Celije
Commemorated on August 29
…Today we glorify the great feast of the first among the Prophets of the New Testament. He announced to men that the Lord Jesus Christ had appeared to the world not only as the Savior, but as the Enlightener and as the Judge of the world. In his hands were both the hatchet and the spade: on the day of the Dread Judgement, the Lord would clean off the earth’s threshing-floor, and would separate the wheat from the chaff, the righteous from the sinners. All of this the great and glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptizer of the Lord had foreseen. Therefore, today we also praise him as the holy New Testament Prophet, killed by the impious, criminal, King Herod.
The Holy Forerunner also received the Lord’s witness to the fact that he was the greatest of those born of woman, because he had become the first of all of the Holy Martyrs of the New Testament. See how he suffered for God’s truth in this world! He suffered joyously! In today’s principal hymn and prayer to him it is said that he went to his death rejoicing, and that he suffered rejoicing. Thus, he became the first example and inspiration to all of the Holy Martyrs of the New Testament, beginning with St. Stephen the Protomartyr and through today. All of the Holy Martyrs go to their death rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ, go to their deaths, knowing that death cannot hold them in its bonds, knowing that death is merely a gate, an open gate through which their holy souls enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. How else, brothers and sisters, can we explain the joy of Holy Great Martyr George’s joy while having his body broken: his bones were being broken on the wheel, and he shouted with joy in the Lord, for he could see Him, could see the Angels of God, standing around Him, and the Angels stopping the wheel. See what joy [he experienced] during those awful tortures! And the Holy Great Martyr stands up whole and unharmed before the godless Emperor Diocletian. The first one to reveal that holy joy of martyrdom had been St. John, the Holy Forerunner and Baptizer of the Lord.
Today we also specifically glorify the first Evangelist and Christian Confessor, the first to Confess God in this New Testament world...Fearless and undaunted, like an immortal lion, like one of the Cherubim in the flesh, he was the first Confessor of Christ’s Faith, and he has been followed by multitudes of faces—the world’s glorious Confessors of Christ’s Faith, Confessors who bear witness and confess before the entire world, before East and West, before North and South, that the Lord Christ is the Sole True God in Heaven and on earth.. Christ is before all and above all! He is the Sole True God.
The true God is essential to the human soul in this earthly realm.
Yes, the Holy Baptist, was the first Christian Confessor, and there streamed after him, following as after a helmsman, thousands and thousands of glorious Confessors of Christ in this world…
Today, in glorifying that great and glorious first Apostle, first Martyr, first Evangelist, Precursor to all true Christians of all time, we bow down before his joyous suffering for Christ’s Truth and His Holy Gospel, before him as Apostle and Martyr. Consider, that for already 2,000 years, the One who allowed the lawless king to behead him, has been working countless miracles in the earthly realm, living in it alongside the Lord Jesus Christ. For 2,000 years he has been ceaselessly working miracles for all those who turn to him in prayer.
Brothers and sisters, whenever you are in great sorrow, turn to that first Apostle of Christ, and he will help you with all of your burdens. And should some kind of misfortune happen, turn to that first Evangelist. No matter what bitterness might fill your soul, he will sweeten it with Christ’s grace, which he will mystically send down to your tortured soul from the World on High. And when you find yourself in temptations and horrors of this earthly life, run to him, to the Holy Confessor; tell him what is in your heart, pour out your sorrows and spiritual needs and rest assured that in a mystical, divine manner, he will come down into your soul and will save you, and will deliver you from all temptations and woes. But should you need to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ in this world: should others attack you on all sides, should atheists and those who oppose Christ want to swallow you up, to destroy you for belonging to Christ, should they want to silence your voice, to stop it from speaking of Christ, then remember that first Martyr, and call out to him: O Holy Martyr, first Martyr of Christ in the Gospels, hurry to my aid! Grant that may I die for the Lord Jesus Christ, leave my body like temporary clothing, and by the path of the Holy Martyrs move to Christ’s Kingdom! He will entreat the Lord that you might also join the host of Luminaries. Thus, today’s little Great Friday becomes for us the great joy of the Resurrection. Friday is small, but Sunday, the Resurrection, is great—resurrection for all Christians of all time. And for us today: for me, for you, for every Christian living today, today’s Great Friday is at the same time the Resurrection, for today we glorify the St. John the Baptist who is eternally alive in the Heavens; [we glorify] his victory over the death appointed to him by Herod, his soaring up into the Heavenly Realm, to be the first after the Mother of God, to stand beside the Lord Jesus Christ. You have seen the icon known as the “Deisis” i.e. “Prayer” icon. In it, the Lord sits on the Throne of Glory, as King of Heaven. On His right is the Most-holy Mother of God, and on His left, the Holy Forerunner. They pray to Him for the human race.
Оh! May his holy prayers be raised up today and tomorrow, and always, and may they be raised up for us Christians-Serbs, and for all the people on this earth, that the Lord lead all to repentance, that He have mercy upon all, that He save all, that all people brought [to Him] by the glorious Forerunner, might forever glorify the One True God in Heaven and on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all honor and glory, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Here is a lovely passage from Homily on the Feast of The Beheading of Saint John, the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, Saint Justin Popovich of Celije, Translation from the website of the Church of St. John the Baptist, Washington, D.C. http://www.stjohndc.org/Russian/feasts/FeastsE/e_stjohn_behead_popovic.htm https://iconandlight.wordpress.com/orthodox_greek_icons_blog/