The Synaxis of St. John the Forerunner the Baptist. This is his main feast day, immediately after Theophany on January 6 (January 7 also commemorates the transfer of the relic of the right hand of John the Baptist from Antioch to Constantinople in 956)
Commemorated on January 7
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3,5)
The life of the holy old man JOHN and the Cave of Sapsa
There was an old man called John in the monastery of Eustorgius whom the holy Elias, Archbishop of Jerusalem, wanted to put in charge of all the monasteries in Jerusalem. John demurred, saying that he was wanting to travel to Mt Sinai in order to pray there. The Archbishop urged him to be made an abbot first before going off to wherever he wanted. The old man still would not agree, but at last the bishop let him go on the strength of a promise that John would accept this responsibility on his return. He thanked the Archbishop and began his journey to Mount Sinai, taking his disciple with him. They crossed the Jordan and had hardly taken one more step when the old man began to feel stiff and shortly afterwards became feverish. The fever increased to such an extent that he was unable to walk, so they went into a little cave that they found, in order to rest. The fever got so bad that after staying the cave for three days he was still unable to move. The old man then had a dream in which he saw someone standing next to him saying: “Tell me, old man, where are you going?”
“To Mount Sinai”, he replied.
“No, I beg you, don’t go,” came the answer.
The old man would not agree, and the vision faded, but his fever got even worse. The next night the same person appeared and said “Why do you persist in being punished like this old man? Listen to me and stop trying to go anywhere.”
“Who are you,” said the old man
“I am John the Baptist,” came the reply, “and I warn you, don’t go anywhere, for this narrow cave is greater than Mount Sinai. For the Lord Jesus quite often used to come into this cave when he was visiting me. Promise me that you will stay here and I will restore your health.”
Hearing this the old man freely promised that he would stay in that same cave. His health was immediately restored and there he spent the rest of his life. He made that cave into a church and gathered other brothers about him. The name of that place is Sapsa, and it is watered by the nearby brook Cherith to which Elias was sent in the time of drought from the other side of Jordan.
Excerpts from The Leimonarion, (The Spiritual Meadow) of John Moschus, Chapter I, translated into Latin by Ambrosius Camaldulensis
JOHN -1, 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. 30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
O divine Forerunner, thou hast appeared as a beautiful turtle-dove, as a sweetly-spoken swallow, announcing Christ the Divine Spring; I implore thee do thou entreat Him to deliver me from the soul-corrupting wintry storm of sins.
Troparion of the Synaxis of the Forerunner: In Tone II:
The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, * but the Lord’s testimony is enough for thee, O Forerunner * for thou wast shown to be more wonderful than the Prophets * since thou wast granted to baptize in the running waters * Him whom thou didst proclaim. * Then having endured great suffering for the Truth, * thou didst rejoice to bring, even to those in hell, * the good tidings that God Who had appeared in the flesh * takes away the sin of the world and grants us the great mercy.