St John the Baptist’s day
7th of January
St John, the son of the priest Zechariah and Elizabeth, who was born in a miraculous way, was destined by God to prepare the way for the Lord. So “he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel” (Lk. 1,80). This happened “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar – when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea” (Lk. 3,1). Then “the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk. 3,2-3). Thus the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘prepare the way for the Lord,
Make straight paths for him’’’ (Lk. 3,4. Cf. Isa, 40,3)
were fulfilled. St John preached in the desert, and called sinners to repent and “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Lk. 3,8); he also advised the people how to live rightly.
The people “were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ” (Lk. 3,15). But “John answered them all, ‘I baptise you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’” (Lk. 3,16). So St John prophesied also the coming of the Messiah. “And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them” (Lk. 3,18). Thus he prepared the way for the Saviour both by preaching to the people of Israel the Baptism of repentance and by foretelling the coming of the Son of God.
One day after our Lord’s baptism “John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’” (Jn. 1,29)! And then he added: “ ‘I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.’” (Jn. 1,34). Thus St John not only prophesied the coming of Christ but also gave his personal testimony about Him. Moreover, “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’” (Jn. 1,35-36). Then St John’s two disciples, one of whom was St Andrew, followed Jesus and became His first Apostles. St John the Baptist was pleased at this and later, on another occasion, he said about Jesus: “He must become greater; I must become less” (Jn. 3,30). These words of St John’s are very important as they show his humility, his love for Jesus and his eagerness for the starting of the work of Salvation.
St John the Baptist is a prophet, the last and greatest prophet of the Holy Scriptures, the one who prepared the way for our Saviour, the Baptist of the Lord and also the one who gave his personal testimony about Him.
The best praise of him is Jesus’ words to the crowd that St John the Baptist was “more than a prophet” (Lk. 7,26). And also “among those born of women there is no-one greater than John” (Lk. 7, 28).
Because of this the Orthodox Church celebrates St John the Baptist’s memory four times a year.
1. His conception on the 23rd of September
2. His birthday on the 24th of June
3. The anniversary of his Martyrdom on the 29th of August
4. In addition, the Church honours St John the Baptist because of the role he played on the event of Theophany on the 7th of January.
The Church also celebrates the findings of his head two times a year; the first and second findings of his holy head (as it had been lost) on the 24th of February and the third on the 25th of May.
-From An Abridged Calendar of the Feasts of the Orthodox Church (including all the fixed feasts of our Lord and His Mother and selected Saints’ day based on authentic ecclesiastical sources) by M. Tsami-Dratsellas, vol. 1: January to June, Myrioviblos Publications: Athens, 2008.