Beheading of St. John the Baptist
Commemoration of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist on August 29
After baptizing Our Lord in the Jordan, John was arrested by Herod the tetrarch. Because Herod was wicked and strove to please people more then God, he was deceived into beheading John by his sister-in- law, Herodias (please read Mk 6:14-29). This day is always a strict fast day, even though we celebrate a Divine Liturgy, because the day contains both sadness, for it was the tragic end to a righteous man’s earthly life, and joy, for it was his victorious entrance into the eternal bliss of God’s Heavenly Kingdom. In some Eastern Christian traditions pious people will not eat food from a flat plate, use a knife, or eat food that is round in shape on this day. It is also a strict fast day to remember the ascetic example set forth by St. John. It was the purity, chastity of heart and freedom from his passions that came about through his ascetic cooperation with God that allowed him to remain filled with the Holy Spirit and a worthy vessel of God’s grace.
Holy Tradition teaches us that St. John preceded the Lord into Hades to proclaim the Good News to the captives. Like the morning star preceding the sun, he illumined those sitting in the darkness and shadow of death from where he was soon lead forth by the Lord with all the righteous from the beginning of the age. In this way, he became the forerunner of Christ to both the living and the dead amongst all those whose time came before the birth of the Church. Holy Tradition also teaches us that St. John holds a position of honor among the Saints second to that of the Theotokos alone. He brings the prayers and concerns of the faithful before the Lord with the same powerful zeal and boldness he exemplified in his earthly life. In this way, he is a saving refuge to all that hasten to him in prayer. St. John is a mighty intercessor and deliverer of those who suffer from the spirits of malice. He is a patron to those who are barren, and an aid to those suffering from the disturbance of passions. At the hour of death, John the Baptist is a protector of souls from the evil demons who stand ready to accuse. In short, he is a defense of the helpless, the poor, widows and orphans.
The reliquary containing the right hand of St. John the Baptist. The right hand of the Prophet and Baptist John was for nine centuries in Antioch, where, according to tradition, it had been brought by the holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke. It was also in Jerusalem, on the island of Rhodes, in Malta, and in Austria. In 1799 AD, it was taken to the capital of the Russian Empire, Saint Petersburg, where it was enshrined with great piety for hundred years. following the revolution in 1917, the holy hand was taken from Russia to various cities in Europe. Afterwards the prophet’s relics were given to the king of Yugoslavia Alexander Karadordevic.