Today I want to share something different from my few previous posts related to Saint Paul because of the feast day.
Today in the Orthodox Church is the feast of the Nativity of the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John. He is considered the greatest of all the Saints after the Panagia. In our churches, we always see his icon depicted right next to Christ’s on the iconostasis (icon stand) that separates the altar and sanctuary from the rest of the church. Saint John prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah and is thus called the Forerunner (Πρόδρομος).
In traditional Orthodox countries like Greece, it is common to celebrate one’s name day rather than a birthday. The name day can be the feast of one’s respective patron Saint. It can also be the feast of a great event in the life of Christ or the Virgin Mary from which someone takes a name. So, for example, those named Anastasios or Anastasia usually celebrate on the feast of Pascha (Easter), which is also known as Anastasis in Greek. “Η Ανάστασις” literally means “Resurrection.” Most people named after the Theotokos with names like Maria, Panagiota, Panagiotis, Despina, or Mario will celebrate their name day on August 15, the feast of the Dormition (Falling-Asleep) of the Panagia.
What is noteworthy is that today we celebrate a birthday. The Orthodox Church does this only on two other occasions, for the Panagia on September 8 and for Christ on December 25.
Saint John the Baptist’s feasts throughout the ecclesiastical year are many. His most well-known and popular feast is January 7, the day after the feast of the Theophany, or Epiphany (Θεοφάνεια). On the feast of Theophany, we celebrate the Baptism of Christ and the manifestation to the world of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity.
Other feasts of his include the commemoration of his beheading on August 29, the feast of his conception (yes, conception ) on September 23, the first and second finding of his venerable head on February 24, and the third finding on May 25.
The praise that Christ gives Saint John remains close to the hearts of the faithful:
As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:7-11).