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.