My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 23rd of September, the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates
the Conception of the Honorable Prophet,
Forerunner, and Baptist JOHN.
Apolytikion Hymn (Dismissal Hymn). Forth Tone
REJOICE, O thou brethren one who hadst not borne until now; for lo,
in all truth thou hast conceived the lamp of the Sun, and he shall send
forth his light over all the earth, which is afflicted with blindness.
Dance, O Zacharias, and cry out with great boldness: The one to be
born is the blest Prophet of God Most High.
Kontakion Hymn. First Tone
GREAT Zacharias now doth rejoice with resplendence; Elizabeth his glorious
yoke-mate exulteth; for she hath conceived divine John Forerunner worthily,
whom the great Archangel had announced with rejoicing, whom, as it is meet,
we men revere as a sacred initiate of grace divine.
John the Forerunner, the fruit of prayer, sprang forth from a barren womb. The preacher of repentance came forth to be incarnate in the womb of the aged and barren Elizabeth.
In the days of Herod, the father of Saint John the Baptist, the Righteous Zacharias, was serving as priest in the presence of God. The multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. In Leviticus, we learn that the Lord spoke to Moses after the two sons of Aaron died in bringing strange fire before the Lord. The Lord said to him, "Speak to Aaron thy brother, and let him not come in at all times into the holy place within the veil before the Mercy Seat, which is upon the ark of testimony, and he shall not die; for I will appear in a cloud on the Mercy Seat. Thus shall Aaron enter into the holy place; with a calf of the herd for a sin-offering, and having a ram for a whole-burnt-offering. And he shall put on the consecrated linen tunic and the linen drawers, and shall gird himself with a linen girdle, and shall put on the linen cap; they are holy garments. He shall bathe all his body in water, and shall put them on. He shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin-offering, and one lamb for a whole-burnt-offering. Then Aaron shall bring the calf for his own sin-offering, and shall make expiation for himself and for his house. And he shall take the two goats, and place them before the Lord by the door of the Tabernacle of Witness…
"…The Evangelist Luke informs us that while Zacharias was officiating as priest within the Temple, offering up the petitions of the people, he obtained the lot to burn incense; for the Forerunner is like the divine altar of the sweet-smelling incense of Christ, stationed to His right hand, pouring forth the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. Hence, it was at the hour of incense when Zacharias beheld the Archangel Gabriel. "Cease being afraid," said the Archangel, "because thine entreaty was heard" [Luke 1:13]. Zacharias came before God asking for the salvation of the people, not the reception of a child. "This child," he was told, "SHALL BE GREAT BEFORE THE FACE OF THE LORD, AND IN NO WISE SHALL DRINK WINE AND STRONG DRINK. HE SHALL BE FILLED WIT THE HOLY SPIRIT, EVEN FROM ELIZABETH’S WOMB. MANY OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL SHALL HE TURN AROUND TO THE LORD THEIR GOD. AND HE SHALL GO FORTH BEFORE HIS FACE IN THE SPIRIT AND POWER OF ELIAS." Zacharias, however, DISBELIEVED, saying, "According to what shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in her days." Gabriel then announced that he stands before the face of God and that he was sent to announce these good tidings. "And behold," the Archangel uttered, "THOU SHALT BE SILENT AND NOT BE ABLE TO SPEAK UNTIL THE DAY IN WHICH THESE THINGS SHOULD COME TO PASS BECAUSE THOU DIDST NOT BELIEVE MY WORDS." Indeed, Zacharias came out and was unable to speak before the people. He was nodding to them and remained mute. "And it came t pass," says Saint Luke, "when the days of his service were fulfilled, he departed to his house." [Luke 1:23].
The high priest Zacharias entered the Holy of Holies during the time of the feast of Tabernacles, which occurred in the seventh month from March, that is, September, even as the law commands: "This shall be a perpetual statute for you; in the Seventh Month, on the tend day of the month, ye shall humble your souls.."
Since Zacharias began on the 15th of the month, and the feast lasted seven days, until the 21st of the month (which includes the 15th as day one), it is evident that he remained in the Temple during the feast of Tabernacles. The eighth day, the 22nd, was one of rest. In all likelihood, he returned home on that day. Having this in mind, the Holy Church commemorates the CONCEPTION OF SAINT JOHN THE FORERUNNER on the 23rd of September, and his birth NINE MONTHS LATER, that is, the 24th of June. Thus, the barren one, Elizabeth, gave birth TO THE PREACHER OF REPENTANCE, the VOICE OF THE Logos/Word. Let us honor John, the INITIATE OF THE MYSTERY OF GRACE. Elizabeth CONCEIVED THE FORERUNNER OF GRACE, and the Virgin CONCEIVED THE LORD OF GLORY. When both mothers EMBRACE IN GREETING, THE UNBORN JOHN LEAPT P, FOR THE SERVANT WITHIN ELIZABETH’S WOMB WAS PRAISING HIS Master. Righteous Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out with a loud voice: "BLESSED ART THOU AMONG WOMEN, AND BLESSED IS THE FRUIT OF THY WOMB. AND WHENCE IS THIS TO ME, THAT THE Mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, AS THE SOUND OF THY SALUTATION CAME INTO MINE EARS, THE BABE IN MY WOMB LEAPED IN EXULTANT JOY" [Luke 1:41-44]. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God