Hymn of St. John the Baptist (2nd Mode):
The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, * but the Lord's testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner; * for thou hast proved to be truly more venerable than the Prophets, * since thou wast granted to baptize in the stream * Him Whom they proclaimed. * Wherefore having contested for the truth, * thou didst rejoice to announce the good tidings * even to those in Hades: * that God hath appeared in the flesh, * taking away the sin of the world * and granting us His great mercy.
St. John was the son of the Prophet Zacharias and Elizabeth, who was a kinswoman of the Virgin Mary. St. John is known as the "Forerunner" and "Baptist." He is known as the Forerunner because he preceded Christ and taught repentance, which prepared men for Jesus' teaching and His ministry. He even recognized Christ as the Messiah as early as when they were both still in their mothers' wombs. According to Holy Tradition, the Virgin Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and when they embraced John leapt in his mother's womb, which is considered his first acknowledgment of Christ as Messiah.
After his birth, St. John's father Zacharias was murdered in the temple. He and his mother fled to the desert and he was raised there. Thus he lived as an ascetic from the earliest part of his life. He ate plants and roots and wore rough clothing. When he grew, he baptized people in the Jordan, teaching repentance, but also saying that someone greater would come after him and baptize with the Holy Spirit.
St. John always spoke the Truth and because Herod did not appreciate his criticism, he was imprisoned. Later he was beheaded, as the result of a promise Herod gave to his step-daughter to give her anything she asked. The daughter was convinced by her mother to ask for John's head on a platter. Our parish celebrates the feast of St. John's Beheading as our patronal feast day. It is a strict fast day in recognition of the way in which he died, but it is also a joyous feast day because John's life was such a luminous example for monastics, martyrs and all Christians to follow him.
Feast Days of St. John the Baptist
September 23rd - Conception of St. John
January 7th - Synaxis of St. John
February 24th - 1st & 2nd Findings of the head of St. John
May 25th - 3rd Finding of the head of St. John
June 24th - Nativity of St. John
August 29th - Beheading of St. John - our patronal feast day