The Synaxis of St. John the Forerunner the Baptist.
(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)
Hymn of praise
by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič
Saint John, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord
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
And, you do not rustle neither roar nor moan,
Neither your lament nor your song through the wilderness echoed!
Tell me, are you a man? What is your name?
Will you ever want to speak with someone?
Voice, voice, 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; O Wonder of Wonders,
In the midst of the water, from heaven, a hidden fire!
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; except your voice?
Your withered body is but a shadow of your voice,
Which proclaims the news: Behold, God comes to us!
Your withered body, a reed; that Herod broke
But the voice continues, continues; no one to silence it.
Whose voice is that? From whom even the centuries tremble?
A hungry lion! No, No – a man of faith.
by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič
About submission to the Will of God
“Your will be done, on earth as in heaven” (St. Matthew 6:10).
Blessed be John the Baptist, for he fulfilled the Good News before the arrival of the Good News! 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 his body throughout the many years that he spent in the wilderness. Neither was his soul harmed by despair because of loneliness, nor pride because of heavenly visions. He did not seek from man either bread or knowledge. God granted him everything that was necessary for him because he gave himself up completely to the will of God.
Neither did he direct his footsteps in 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 the wilderness and go out to meet the Lord, it is said: “The Word of God came to John” (St. Luke 3:2). As an innocent youth, in this manner John spoke simply about his communication with the powers of heaven: “And I did not know Him [Christ] but the One Who sent me to baptize with water told me, `On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, He is the One Who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God” (St. John 1: 33-34). How tenderly and simply he speaks about heavenly things! How he is as awesome as a lion 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 the angels in heaven.
O Lord, Most-wise, direct the lives of us sinners in the wilderness of this life according to Your will as You directed the life of St. John the Baptist.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič, for Old Calendar date January 07, and New Calendar date January 20.
On John the Forerunner, as foretold by Isaiah
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
“The voice of one that cries in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).
When a king wants to visit a certain place, he sends before him in advance his heralds. To an unusual king an unusual herald is appropriate. The herald of Christ the King in the wilderness was Moses; in Jerusalem, the Prophets; in Nazareth, the Archangel; in Bethlehem, the Magi of the East; on the Jordan, John. Not one king in the history of mankind has had such heralds.
St. John the Baptist was also as unusual and special as were the other heralds of Christ. He was the voice crying in the two-fold wilderness: in the wilderness of Jordan and in the human wilderness. Just as the wilderness of Jordan was fruitless and dry, so the wilderness of the human spirit, was unfruitful and dry. John was not able to make the human wilderness green and fruitful, but he cleared and plowed it and, in that way, was preparing the earth and leveled it [the earth] for the great Sower Who, by His coming, brings with Him the seed and the rain to sow the seed of knowledge and the rain of grace from on high to make it green and be fruitful.
By repentance, John prepared the way and by baptism in water, made the path straight. The way and the paths these are the souls of men. By repentance, the souls of men were prepared to receive the seed of Christ and by baptism in water to bury that seed deep in the earth of their heart. The proud and the lowly when they are immersed naked in the water are all as one, equal in their nothingness before the majesty of the All-glorious Christ the Savior: “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low” (Isaiah 40:4). The word here is not about earthly valleys and hills but of lowly and proud men. As corpses in the grave are all the same before the eyes of a living man, thus all sinners, lowly and proud, slaves and masters are equal before the living God.
Such a wondrous vision was seen by Isaiah, the son of Amos, the prophet of the living God, the one and true God.
O Lord, Heavenly King, to Whom the heavenly hosts worship day and night, look down once again upon our nothingness and because of Your humiliation and passion for us, save us. Amen.
The right hand of St. John the Baptist
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.
Stichera, In Tone VIII:
Spec. Mel.: O most glorious wonder.
O blessed John the Forerunner, * sincere friend of the Lord, * who in the waters of the Jordan * touched with thy hand His all-purest crown, * by thy holy intercessions * do thou always with love elevate my humble soul to the Lord, * extinguishing the fire of things that feed my passions, * and leading me to the faithful execution of the divine commandments * truly cleansing the senses of my heart, * that I may glorify thee.
O thou, offspring of barrenness * and the Lord’s garden of purity, * ornament of all mankind, * Baptiser of the Lord, * all-praised John the Forerunner, * divine guardian of my humble soul, * do thou vouchsafe unto me God’s grace through thine intercessions, * delivering me from the serpent, * and his crafty and wily slanders and attacks.
Thou art the most compassionate of all mankind, * full of divine grace, * O ever-glorious Prophet, * making glad all those who come unto thee in faith, * sweetening our senses of both soul and body, * and effacing from us the bitterness of maladies and afflictions, * of attacks from the evil one, * and of all the soul destroying passions.