Pointing to the Lamb

August 29th
The Beheading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet and Forerunner and Baptist John

Beheading of JohnThe Church sets forth for every day of the year so many saints, so that we can be inspired by their lives, rejoice in their virtues, and take comfort in their intercession.   There are countless martyrs and many holy ascetics.  There are numerous hierarchs and worthy priests and deacons.  There are choirs of virgins, wonderworkers, holy fools, un-mercenary healers and passion-bearers.  But there is only one baptist and forerunner, and he, among all those born of woman knows no superior.

Today we celebrate the day of his beheading, or rather the surrender of his life to God's plan.  We come to the date of August 29th because this is the day of dedication of the Church built by Saint Helen for his relics in Sebaste, the site of his burial.  In that place his holy relics were honoured until they were disturbed by the apostate emperor Julian.   But, imprisoned in that dark palace, John actually gave his life into God's hands shortly before the Jewish Passover.

And that is entirely fitting and suitable.  For even at his holy death, John did not abandon his ministry of going before the Lord, preparing his way (Luke 1:76).  He had leapt for joy in the womb of his mother Elizabeth at the visitation of the Saviour and the Mother of God.  He entered the desert before the Lord, and told the demons to prepare to address the Only-begotten in the flesh.  He preached to the people of Israel to prepare the way of the Lord, and to make his paths straight (Luke 3:4).  He pointed to the Lamb of God, and made his own disciples to be apostles of the Lord.   Though innocent, he was arrested and accused unjustly, a forerunner of the chosen path that the blameless Christ would follow.  Now, he gave his life over to death, but this did not mark the end of his ministry!  He entered into the realm of the dead, into Hades where the righteous of all ages, the patriarchs, prophets and just ones from the creation of the world were waiting to be loosed from their bondage.  He walked among the dead, in the kingdom of death, crying out for all those weeping there to prepare themselves to receive the Lord God!  The time of their captivity was coming to an end, soon Christ the true God would by means of the Cross enter into their condition, and lead them forth into freedom, opening the gates of paradise and carrying them to the glory of the holy Resurrection.  The voice of God the Word would be heard in their midst, and the darkness of death would be illumined with the eternal Light.  The psalmist words prophetically described that day:  The just shall rejoice at the presence of God, they shall exult and dance for joy. Make a highway for him who rides on the clouds, rejoice in the Lord, exult in his presence.  God will go forth, at the head of his people, and the heavens will melt at the presence of God.  This God of ours is a God who saves, the Lord our God holds the keys of death. (from Psalm 67).

We hear the story of the beheading of the forerunner John, and shudder with shame and disbelief.  How could the Saviour God allow such a terrible end to his kinsman and faithful servant?  With treachery and lust, the death is plotted of one so pure and righteous?  But John himself was not disturbed, nor did he question God's ways.  He gave himself over to the will of God, whose plan is ever for the good to those who love him.

We fast today, as if to honour the Forerunner who fasted always.  We fast today, to separate ourselves from the passions that were so cruelly executed on the day of his death.  Trumpets precede the entrance of the King into the banquet hall.  Lightning precedes the thunderclap.  A candle precedes the procession of the Holy Gospel.  And we fast today to remind ourselves that humility precedes the gifts of God.   How shall we boast?  Even hours of patient vigil, even endless good deeds, even mountains of philanthropy are a pittance, amounting to nothing more than some camel hair and a leather girdle before God.  It is a humbled spirit and contrite heart that is acceptable before the throne of grace.  So on this feast we fast, becoming less, that God can become all.  Lord, grant us the grace to humble ourselves, help us to persevere, even to the end.

Holy kinsman of the Lord, prophet, forerunner and baptist John, pray to God for us!


Written by a monk of the Byzantine Catholic Church.

Copyright © 1998, www.byzcath.org.


Welcome!

Welcome to byzcath.org. Here you will find news and general information about the Byzantine Catholic (Greek Catholic) and other Eastern Christian Churches. This site is unofficial.

Teachings of Christ

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30 ESV)

Scripture

July 8, 2018
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
- Matins: John 20:1-10 (Gospel 7)
- Liturgy: Romans 15:1-7, Matthew 9:27-35

Eighth Week After Pentecost
- Monday: 1 Corinthians 9:13-18, Matthew 16:1-6
- Tuesday: 1 Corinthians 10:5-12, Matthew 16:6-12
- Wednesday: 1 Corinthians 10:12-22, Matthew 16:20-24
- Thursday: 1 Corinthians 10:28-11:7, Matthew 16:24-28
- Friday: 1 Corinthians 11:8-22, Matthew 17:10-18
- Saturday: Romans 13:1-10, Matthew 12:30-37

July 15, 2018
Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
- Matins: John 20:11-18 (Gospel 8)
- Liturgy: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, Matthew 14:14-22
Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils
- Vespers: Genesis 17:15-17, 19; 18:11-14; 21:1-7, Judges 13:2-8, 13-14, Composite 19
- Liturgy: Hebrews 13:7-16, John 17:1-12

Ninth Week After Pentecost
- Monday: 1 Corinthians 11:31-12:6, Matthew 18:7-11
- Tuesday: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Matthew 18:18-22; 19:1, 2, 13-15
- Wednesday: 1 Corinthians 13.4-14:5, Matthew 20:1-16
- Thursday: 1 Corinthians 14:6-19, Matthew 20:17-28

July 20, 2018
Holy Prophet Elias
- Vespers: 3 [1] Kings 17:1-23, 3 [1] Kings 18, 19, 3 [1] Kings 19:19, 20, 21, 4 [2] Kings 2:1, 6-14
- Matins: Luke 4:22-30
- Liturgy: James 5:10-20, Luke 4:22-30

- Friday: 1 Corinthians 14:26-40, Matthew 21:12-14, 17-20
- Saturday: Romans 14:6-9, Mathew 15:32-39

July 22, 2018
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
- Matins: John 20:19-31 (Gospel 9)
- Liturgy: 1 Corinthians 3:9-17, Matthew 14:22-34

Feasts & Fasts

July
1 - Canada Day (Canada)
4 - Independence Day (USA)
15 - Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils
20 - Holy, Glorious Prophet Elias

August
1-14 - Dormiton Fast
6 - Transfiguation of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ
15 - Dormition of the Mother of God

Please pray!

"They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword...." (Hebrews 11:37a)

Please lift up in prayer all those who are persecuted and deprived of liberty, everywhere in the world. Please especially remember the peoples of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Niger - the whole Middle East and Africa - who are literal martyrs for Christ. Also the peoples of Ukraine. They are our brothers, for all are one in Christ.

Join Our Community

Check out The Byzantine Forum, a discussion community focusing on everything Eastern Christian. Here you can share your faith, ask questions, request prayers and offer prayers. It's a cross between a panel of experts and a cyber coffee hour. Believers and non-believers welcome!

Pentecost

Blessed are You, O Christ our God, * Who has shown the fishermen to be all wise, * by sending down to them the Holy Spirit, * and through them You have caught the whole world in Your net. * O Lover of Mankind, glory to You. (Troparion - Tone 8)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

When the Most High descended, confusing tongues, * He divided the nations; * but when He distributed the tongues of fire, * He called all to unity; * and, with one voice, * we glorify the Most Holy Spirit. (Kontakion - Tone 8)

Random Proverb

"Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her." (Proverbs 8:10,11 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

I pray Thee, compassionate Lord, do not allow me to be condemned because of the unworthy and ungrateful manner in which I contemplate the great mysteries that Thou hast revealed to Thy saints and through them to me, a sinner and Thy unworthy servant. For see, Lord, Thy servant stands before Thee, idle in everything, speechless, as one who is dead; and I do not dare to say anything more or to presumptuously contemplate further. But as always I fall down before Thee, crying from the depths of my soul. . . .

St. Peter of Damascus