My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 7th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
the Synaxis of the Honorable Prophet, Forerunner and
Saint John, the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist, is commemorated on the 7th of January by Our Holy Church. The word SYNAXIS signifies a GATHERING OR ASSEMBLY. In this case, today’s Synaxis IS AN ASSEMBLY OF THE CONGREGATION FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP, WITH A VIGIL AND EUCHARIST, AND INSTRUCTION REGARDING THE FEAST DAY OF Saint John, following the Major Feast of the Theophany, in which he materially participated.
Saint Ephraim the Syrian (+306-383 A.D.) says that "the daughter [Elisabeth] of Aaron the priest gave birth to the voice in the desert [Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3], and the daughter (Mary) of King David to the Logos/Word of the Heavenly King." The hymnographers of the Church proclaim John as the "VOICE." Hear Elisabeth speaking to the Virgin Mary: "Whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" [Luke 1:43]. "Thou dost carry the King and I the soldier; thou the Law-giver and I the enactor of the la; thou the Logos, and I THE VOICE PROCLAIMING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN" [Isaiah 40:3]. Saint Kyril of Jerusalem (+349-386 A.D.) observes: "John (the Baptist) ALONE, while carried in the womb, LEAPED FOR JOY" [Luke 1:44]; and though he saw not with the eyes of the flesh, he knew his Master by the Spirit. For since the grace of Baptism was great, IT REQUIRED GREATNESS IN ITS FOUNDER ALSO. Saint Ephraim writes: "He who was to baptize with water would proclaim Him Who would baptize in fire and in the Holy Spirit" [Matthew 3:11].
The Festal Reading from the Gospel According to the Evangelist Luke
"The word of God came to be upon John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness" [Luke 3:2]. Saint Theophylact (+765-840] explains: "By ‘the word,’ he means the Holy Spirit or the command of God. The word of God, literally, ‘came to be’ or ‘arose’ upon John. This is in order that you may learn he did not call himself to bear witness concerning Christ, but RATHER WAS MOVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT." Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan [+ 374-397 A.D.), adds that "Saint Luke fittingly says that the word of the Lord came to be upon John so that the Church will not begin from a man, but from the Logos/Word".
The Prophet Isaiah wrote: "The VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD; BE MAKING HIS PATHS STRAIGHT" [Luke 3:3-6]. Saint John Chrysostom comments: "Do you see how the Prophet anticipated all by his words–the concourse of the people, the change of things for the better, the easiness of that which was preached? …He is signifying the exaltation of the lowly, the humbling of the self-willed, the difficulty of the law changed into easiness of faith. For it is no longer sweat and pains, but grace and forgiveness of sins, affording great facility of salvation… Now not only Jews and proselytes shall see the salvation of God, BUT ALL. The crooked things signify our whole corrupt life… as many as were previously perverted, afterward they walked in the right way."
Saint John said, "Produce fruits worthy of repentance" [Luke 3:8]. According to Saint Kyril, "The fruit of repentance is, in the highest degree, FAITH IN CHRIST; and next to it, the evangelic mode of life, and in general terms the works of righteousness in contradistinction to sin, which the penitent must bring forth as fruits worthy of repentance." The Baptist then says, "Think not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for a father’; for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham’ [Luke 3:8]. Saint Kyril observes that John "skillfully humbles their foolish pride. For of what benefits is nobility of birth, if men practice not the life earnest deeds, nor imitate the virtue of their ancestors? The relationship God requires IS ONE N CHARACTER AND MANNERS; SO THAT IT IS A VAIN THING TO BOAST OF HOLY AND PROUD PARENTS, WHILE WE FAIL SHORT OF THEIR VIRTUE." With reference to the "stones," Saint Ambrose tells us that "although God can change and transform diverse natures, yet, because a mystery is of more benefit to me than a miracle. I should acknowledge in the (words of) Christ’s Forerunner nothing greater than the building of the growing Church, which is constructed not of stony rocks, BUT OF LIVING STONES [1 Peter 2:4-5], through THE CONVERSION OF OUR SPIRITS THAT RISE INTO A HABITATION OF GOD AND PEDIMENT OF THE TEMPLE [Ephesians 2:21-22]… Therefore, faith is prophesied to be imparted to the stony hearts of the Gentiles."
The Baptist John was proclaiming A BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE TOWARD THE REMISSION OF SINS. "And all the land of Judaea, and of Jerusalem, were going out to him; and all were being baptized in the Jordan River by him, CONFESSING THEIR SINS" (Mark 1:4-5). Saint Theophylact comments: "John preached the baptism of repentance which led toward the remission of sins… The Forerunner proclaimed the baptism of repentance so that those who repent and receive Christ would have the forgiveness of sins." And elsewhere, "John’s baptism gave neither spiritual grace nor the forgiveness of sin, but Christ WILL FORGIVE YOU AND GIVE YOU THE SPIRIT ABUNDANTLY." Saint John says that Christ, "SHALL BAPTIZE YOU IN THE HOLY SPIRIT AND IN FIRE" [Matthew 3:11]. Saint John Chrysostom comments: "He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit" and by metaphor, he declares THE ABUNDANCE OF GRACE. For he said not, ‘He shall give you the Holy Spirit,’ but ‘He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit.’ And by the additional mention OF THE FIRE, he again indicates THE EXCEEDINGLY STRONG AND ROVING QUALITY OF THE GRACE."
Saint John bore witness, saying, "I have beheld the Spirit descending out of heaven as a dove, and He abode upon Him. And I knew Him not, but the One Who sent me to baptize in water, that One said to me, ‘Upon whomsoever thou shall see the Spirit descending and abiding on Him, this is the One Who baptizeth in the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that THIS IS THE SON OF GOD" (John 1:32-34).
Saint Ambrose comments: "It was not a dove that descended, but the Holy Spirit ‘as a dove’ (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10). Luke, however, added that ‘the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape as a dove upon Him’ [Luke 3:22]. You must not think that this was an incarnation, BUT AN APPEARANCE. He, then, brought the appearance before him, that by means of the appearance he might believe who did not see the Spirit, and that by the appearance he might manifest that He had a share of the one honor in authority, the one operation in the mystery, the one gift in the bath, together with the Father and the Son… And he said fittingly, ‘He abode on Him,’ because the Spirit inspired a saying or acted upon the Prophets as often as He would, but abode always in Christ. Saint Athanasios, Archbishop of Alexandria (+328 A.D.), observes that "the Spirit’s descent on Him in the Jordan WAS A DESCENT UPON US, BECAUSE OF HIS BEARING OUR BODY. For when the Lord, as Man, was washed in the Jordan, IT WAS WE WHO WERE WASHED in Him and by Him. And when He received the Spirit, IT WAS WE WHO BY HIM WERE MADE RECIPIENTS OF THE SPIRIT." [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George