My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
ON JANUARY 7th
OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH
COMMEMORATES THE SYNAXIS OF SAINT JOHN
THE FORERUNNER AND BAPTIST
Saint John’s greatest role during his life was enacted on the day of the Theophany, and because of this the Church has, from the earliest times, dedicated the day following that feast of his memory. This day is also connected with an event involving the hand of the Forerunner. The Evangelist Luke desired to take Saint John’s body from Savaste, where the great Prophet had been beheaded by Herod, to Antioch, his own birthplace. He succeeded, though, in acquiring and taking only one hand, which was kept in Antioch till the 10th century. It was then moved to Constantinople, whence it disappeared during the Turkish occupation.
Saint John is commemorated several times during the year, but his greatest feast is on this day, January 7th. Among the Gospel-figures surrounding the Savior, the person of Saint John the Baptist holds a very special place, by the manner of his birth in this world and of his earthly life, by his role of baptizer of men to repentance and his baptism of the Messiah, and, lastly, by the tragic manner of his departure from this world. He was of such moral purity that he indeed deserved the name "Angel", as he was named in the Holy Scripture, rather than being thought of as just a mortal man. Saint John differs from all the other Prophets in that he had the joy of showing forth to the world the One Whom he had foretold.
Following his martyrdom, the Baptist’s precious body was buried by his disciples near the tomb of the holy Prophet Elisha in the chief city of Samaria, Savaste. Later, the holy Evangelist Luke came there, while traveling through various parts of the land preaching Christ. He wished to take the INCORRUPT RELICS of the holy Forerunner John the Baptist to Antioch, where he was born, reared, educated; but the Savasteans, who greatly revered the holy relics, would not permit him. Saint Luke was only able to remove the Forerunner’s right hand, which baptized our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. The holy Evangelist gave the precious treasure to his native city, where it was accepted with the greatest awe by the faithful and worked numerous miracles.
Julian the Apostate not only did oppress and execute the living, he savagely attacked the dead as well. Exhuming the remains of martyrs, he had them burned, as also many churches. When one day he visited the city of Antioch he saught the holy relics of Saint John to destroy them by fire. Receiving word of his arrival, the faithful had the holy Baptist’s hand in the Tower of Gonius so that it would not be dishonored or destroyed by the persecutor. The historians Nicephorus and Kedrinus state that Julian’s command was carried out, but according to the blessed Symeon Metaphrastes another body was substituted for the Baptist’s and committed to flames with the church. Saint Symeon relates that the Patriarch of Jerusalem learned of the order in time to send the holy relics to Alexandria.
When Julian the Apostate died and piety flourished once more, the hand of the holy Forerunner was removed from the tower like a candle taken out from "under a bushel." Again it was venerated by the faithful and worked miracles.
When the Hagarenes conquered Antioch the invaluable treasure, the priceless hand of Saint John the Baptist, remained in the captive city. Devout emperors tried to purchase the holy relic or acquire it by other means, but without success. Then, during the reign of Constantine and Romanus, brothers born to the purple, the prized hand found its way to Constantinople in the following manner.
In Antioch, there lived a Deacon named Job who was inspired by God to smuggle the sacred hand of the Forerunner out of the Saracen domain. Since at that time the holy relic was kept in the magnificent church of the holy Apostle Peter. Deacon Job arranged to be assigned to that church, where he befriended the verger. When the verger became drunk with wine and passed out, job sneaked into the church and removed the Baptist’s hand. By morning, when the verger regained consciousness, Job was a long way from Antioch. Protected by the Lord and the prayers of the holy Baptist, the Deacon was not stopped by the barbarians and reached the Christian Empire safely. At Chalcedon, he revealed the incomparable treasure. Word was sent immediately to the pious rulers, who, overjoyed by the unexpected news, dispatched the Most holy Patriarch and eminent senators on their personal transport to bring the holy Baptist’s hand to the Capital.
The ship returned from Chalcedon and the Patriarch disembarked, carrying the sacred hand. The emperors and citizens were waiting with candles and incense, chanting psalms and hymns, as if the Forerunner himself were descending from heaven. After reverently kissing the holy relic, they deposited it in one of the palatine chapels. The translation (anakomide) of the Baptist’s holy hand took place on the eve of Theophany, before the blessing of water. The feast was celebrated jubilantly the next day, as was the Synaxis of the Forerunner on the day after that, unto the glory of the Triune God, Who is praised and worshipped by all unto the ages. Amen. (Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints and Prologue from Ochrid)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Theophany,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George