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.

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Teachings of Christ

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 ESV)


March 18, 2018
Fifth Sunday of Great Lent
Saint Mary of Egypt
- Matins: John 20:11-18 (Gospel 8)
- Liturgy: Hebrews 9:11-14, Mark 10:32-45

Sixth Week of Great Lent
- Monday: Isaiah 48:17-49:4, Genesis 27:1-41, Proverbs 19:16-25
- Tuesday: Isaiah 49:6-10, Genesis 31:3-16, Proverbs 21:3-21
- Wednesday: Isaiah 58:1-11, Genesis 43:26-31; 45:1-16, Proverbs 21:23-22:4
- Thursday: Isaiah 65:8-16, Genesis 46:1-7, Proverbs 23:15-24:5
- Friday: Isaiah 66:10-24, Genesis 49:33-50:26, Proverbs 31:8-31

Great and Holy Week

March 24, 2018
Saturday of Saint Lazarus the Righteous
-Liturgy: Hebrews 12:28-13:8, John 11:1-45

March 25, 2018
Feast of the Annunciation to thhe Mother of God
Palm Sunday
The Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem
- Vespers: Exodus 3:1-8, Proverbs 8:22-30 (Annunciation), Genesis 49:1,2,8-12, Zephaniah 3:14-19, Zechariah 9:9-15 (Palm Sunday)
- Matins: Luke 1:39-49, 56 (Annunciation), Matthew 21:1-11,15-17 (Palm Sunday)
- Liturgy: Hebrews 2:11-18, Luke 1:24-38 (Annunciation), Philippians 4:4-9, John 12:1-18 (Palm Sunday)

Feasts & Fasts

2 - Encounter of Our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ with Simeon and Anna
3 - First All-Souls Saturday
4 - Sunday of the Second Coming of Christ (Meat-Fare)
11 - Forgiveness Sunday (Cheese-Fare)
12 - Beginning of the Holy Forty Days Fast
18 - First Sunday of the Great Fast (Sunday of Orthodoxy)
19 - Washington's Birthday (President's Day) (USA)
24 - Second All-Souls Saturday
25 - Second Sunday of the Great Fast (St. Gregory Palamas)

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.

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Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Rather grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)

Random Proverb

"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest." (Proverbs 6:6-8 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

For to despise the present age, not to love transitory things, unreservedly to stretch out the mind in humility to God and our neighbor, to preserve patience against offered insults and, with patience guarded, to repel the pain of malice from the heart, to give one's property to the poor, not to covet that of others, to esteem the friend in God, on God's account to love even those who are hostile, to mourn at the affliction of a neighbor, not to exult in the death of one who is an enemy, this is the new creature whom the Master of the nations seeks with watchful eye amid the other disciples, saying:"If, then, any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are made new" (2 Cor. 5:17). 

St. Gregory the Great