Wednesday July 7, 2021 / June 24, 2021
3rd Week after Pentecost. Tone one.
Fast. Fish Allowed
Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Venerable Anthony, abbot of Dymsk (Novgorod) (1224). Righteous Youths John (1566) and James (1569) of Meniugi (Novgorod). Martyrs Orentius, Pharnacius, Eros, Firmus, Firminus, Cyriacus, and Longinus, in Georgia (3rd c.).
The Nativity of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John:
Commemorated on June 24
The Nativity of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John: The Gospel (Lk. 1: 57-80) relates that the righteous parents of Saint John the Baptist – the Priest Zachariah and Elizabeth, lived in the ancient city of Hebron, and reached old age being childless, since Elizabeth was barren. One time, Saint Zachariah was making Divine services at the Jerusalem Temple and saw the Archangel Gabriel, standing on the right side of the incense offertory. He predicted, that Saint Zachariah would father a son, who would announce the Saviour – the Messiah, awaited by the Old Testament Church. Zachariah was troubled, and fear fell upon him. He had doubts that in old age it was possible to have a son, and he asked for a sign. And it was given to him – it appeared at the same time as a chastisement for his unbelief: Zachariah was struck speechless until the time of the fulfillment of the archangel’s words.
Saint Elizabeth came to be with child, and fearing derision over the lateness of her pregnancy, she kept it secret for five months, until there came visiting her distant relative the All-Blessed Virgin Mary, to share with her Her own joy. Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, was the first to greet the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. And together with her Saint John also – in the womb of his mother Righteous Elizabeth – did greet “with leaps as in song” the MostHoly Virgin Mary and the Son of God incarnated within Her.
It became time, and Saint Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and all the relatives and acquaintances rejoiced together with her. On the eighth day, in accord with the law of Moses, was made the circumcision. His mother named him John. Everyone was amazed, since no one in their family had been named such. When they asked Saint Zachariah about this, he motioned for a tablet and wrote on it: “John is his name” – and immediately the binding of his tongue at the prediction of the archangel was unbound, and Saint Zachariah, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, glorified God and pronounced the words of prophecy about the Advent-Coming into the world of the Messiah, and about his own son John – the Forerunner of the Lord.
After the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the worship of the shepherds and the Magi, wicked king Herod gave orders to kill all the infants. Hearing about this, Saint Elizabeth fled into the wilderness and hid in a cave. Saint Zachariah as a priest was at Jerusalem and was doing his priestly service in the Temple. Herod sent soldiers to him to find out the abode of the infant John and his mother. Zachariah answered, that their whereabouts were unknown to him, and he was killed right there in the Temple. Righteous Elizabeth continued to live in the wilderness with her son and she died there. The lad John, protected by an Angel, dwelt in the wilderness until such time, when he came preaching about repentance and was himself vouchsafed worthy to baptise the Lord Who was come into the world.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
By a miracle of God John entered the world,
As once did Sarah’s and Abraham’s Isaac;
By a miracle of God he remained alive
From Herod’s bloody knife.
The knife, the young child John, missed,
But John’s father it did not miss.
By a miracle of God John sustained himself
For thirty years in the desert.
To a servant of God, angels are shepherds;
To the poor, angels are guardians!
John grew, a loveable lamb,
That he might serve the Lamb of God,
That he might proclaim the bright day before the sun.
The unknown One, he recognized and glorified.
Of the great prophets, he was the last,
And of God’s apostles, the beginning.
Like Elias, with God he spoke,
And like an apostle he loved and rebuked.
Of the high priest, wondrous son,
Of the martyrs of God, first-crowned brother.
One of the differences between the eloquent philosophy of the Greeks [Hellenes] and the Christian Faith is that Greek philosophy can clearly be expressed with words and comprehended by reading, while the Christian Faith cannot be clearly expressed by words, and still less can it be comprehended by reading alone. When you are expounding the Christian Faith, the example of the one who expounds it is indispensible; and for its understanding and acceptance, both reading and the practice of what is read are necessary. When Patriarch Photius read the words of St. Mark the Ascetic on the spiritual life, he noticed a certain lack of clarity in the author, about which he wisely said: “It [unclarity] does not proceed from the obscurity of expression but from the truth which is expressed there; it is better understood by means of practice (rather than by means of words) and cannot be explained by words only. And this,” the great patriarch adds, “is the case not only with these homilies, and not only with this man, but rather with all of those who attempt to expound the ascetic rules and instructions, which are better understood by deeds (in practice).”
To contemplate the miraculous recognition by the Elder Simeon the God-receiver: And he came by inspiration of the Spirit into the Temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him according to the custom of the Law: (St. Luke 2:27):
1. How this holy elder recognized in the Spirit the helpless Child as Lord and Messiah, while the blinded scribes and priests did not recognize Him, either then or when He worked numerous miracles and revealed unheard-of wisdom;
2. How my soul too, if it has grown old in sin, cannot recognize the Lord.
Against malicious rejoicing
“Rejoice not when your enemy falls; and when he stumbles, let not your heart exult” (Proverbs 24:17).
He is a man; do not rejoice in his fall. He is your brother; let not your heart leap for joy when he stumbles. God created him for life, and God does not rejoice in his fall. And you also, do not rejoice at that which grieves God. When a man falls, God loses; do you rejoice in the loss of your Creator, of your Parent? When the angels weep, do you rejoice?
When your enemy falls, pray to God for him, that God will save him; and give thanks to God that you did not fall in the same manner. You are of the same material, both you and he, like two vessels from the hand of the potter. If one vessel breaks, should the other one smile and rejoice? Behold, the small stone that broke that vessel only waits for someone’s hand to raise it to destroy this vessel also. Both vessels are of the same material, and a small stone can destroy a hundred vessels.
When one sheep is lost, should the rest of the flock rejoice? No, they should not. For behold, the shepherd leaves his flock and, being concerned, goes to seek the lost sheep. The shepherd’s loss is the flock’s loss too. Therefore, do not rejoice when your enemy falls, for your Shepherd and his Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, does not rejoice in his fall.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou Good Shepherd, remove malicious joy from our hearts, and in its place plant compassion and brotherly love.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.