From conception to a terrible death: celebrations and mysteries of John the Baptist

© RIA Novosti / Ilya Petliurite in photobacteria at the tomb of John the Baptist in the Umayyad mosque in DamascusFrom conception to a terrible death: celebrations and mysteries of John the Baptist© RIA Novosti / Ilya Petliurite the image Bank

The feast of the Epiphany, celebrated in Russia of bathing in the hole and the blessing of the waters all the waters, is inextricably linked with the figure of John the Baptist. The next day after the Epiphany the Church celebrates the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and only in the calendar dedicated to him for seven holidays. Why are so many of them, what they are and what unusual stories connected with them — in the material RIA Novosti.

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (January 20)

The celebration of St. John the Baptist Cathedral January 20, associated with the Church tradition: after the big celebrations the next day, to remember those saints that have direct relevance to this event. And if, immediately after Christmas the Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Theotokos, Joseph the betrothed and the Lord’s brother James, after the Baptism of the Lord honor the memory of one who personally baptized the Savior.

The word «Cathedral» in the name of the feast as it is determined by Sainted Dimitrii of Rostov, in his famous «Lives of the saints» means that «people are going to Church for fulfillment of divine service in honor and praise now glorified» John the Baptist.

John the Baptist testified to the coming to earth of the son of God, completes the story of the old Testament Church and opened the era of the New Testament — the establishment of new spiritual values. He is considered the greatest of the prophets. Christ himself spoke of him that «among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist» (Matthew, 11th Chapter). The evangelists called the Forerunner the angel of the Lord, and on icons, he is often depicted with wings.

«John was so great that the Church keeps the memory of all the manifestations of his life: his conception and birth, and in memory of his mission Spasova the Baptist (St. John the Baptist — the day after Epiphany), and his Martyr death — the beheading, and three gained a fair head — great for the world of relics, and the translation of the Johannine right hand from Malta to Russia», — said a famous preacher, Archimandrite John (krestiankin, 1910-2006).

The conception of John the Baptist (6 Oct)

It happened about two years before the birth of Christ. The Jews awaiting the Messiah, were waiting, and its Forerunner in the prophetic books it was said that he will come before the Messiah and point to His coming. Before the birth of John the Baptist in ancient Israel for several centuries were not prophets, therefore, the people readily responded to the preaching of the Baptist, even wearing revealing and hard-hitting nature.

The feast of the Conception of John the Baptist Christians remember how the parents of the prophet — the righteous priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth received the joyful news of the imminent birth of their son. The couple were already at an advanced age, but had no children and was constantly asking God to grant them a baby.

The Archangel Gabriel appeared to the priest Zachariah, when he served in the Jerusalem temple. The angel said that he had a son whom he should name John. But for the fact that at first Zechariah did not believe the words of the Archangel, he was struck dumb until the birth of her son.

The feast of the Conception of John the Baptist has Byzantine origins and is known since V century. Originally it coincided with the day of the new year, which in 462 year was moved from the 23 of September 1, according to the old calendar.

The Nativity of John the Baptist (July 7)

The Nativity of John the Baptist (and his beheading of the head) refers to the five «great» religious holidays, the next in importance after «the twelve» (twelve main) Lord and the Marian feast. This day always falls on the fast of the apostles, like a reminder that John himself all his life strictly fasted, only ate grass and wild honey, and often altogether «there was nothing to eat or drink».

John was born six months before Jesus Christ. Before that, how says the gospel, his mother Elizabeth was visited by the blessed virgin Mary, who was her distant relative. And the unborn John welcomed the mother of God, «usugrow in the womb» of Elizabeth. This unusual event is constantly reminded of the festive worship services.

When Elizabeth gave birth to her son, was pleased all her relatives and friends invited to the celebration. When deciding how to name the baby, Zechariah wrote on a tablet «John is his name» — and immediately afterwards regained the power of speech. Then Zechariah prophesied that in the world of the coming of the Messiah, and that his son would be His Forerunner.

Further, the Church’s tradition tells us that the righteous Elizabeth fled with her son into the desert and hid in a cave, after the command of king Herod to kill all infants in the district of the place of birth of the Savior. And Zacharias was murdered in the temple of Jerusalem for not revealed the location of his son. John lived in the wilderness until the time came to preach about repentance.

According to father John (krestiankin), the desert became a «mother and father whom I had to become a Minister of the Word» and «in the silence of the desert he was preparing to speak with the voice of Truth in the human desert».

Christmas the Baptist from ancient times celebrated by the Church. Date of birth «the greatest of the prophets» was determined based on the gospel data for six-month age difference of John and of Christ. The feast of the Nativity was close to the winter solstice, when the length of daylight begins to increase and the birth of the Baptist to the summer solstice and decreasing sunlight. Perhaps at this point, and shaped the words of the Baptist that «He (Christ. — Approx. ed.) must increase, but I must decrease» (John, Chapter 3).

The beheading of St. John the Baptist (September 11)

On this day the Orthodox world remembers the death of the prophet in a drunken feast in the Palace of the Jewish king Herod. In prison John the Baptist was imprisoned because he denounced Herod for living with Herodias, wife of his brother Philip. During the feast the daughter of Herodias Salome pleased Herod and all the guests with their dances, and the king promised to fulfill any of its request. Talking to her mother, Salome asked immediately to bring her on a platter the head of John the Baptist. By order of the Governor the Baptist was beheaded by the sword.

This event is described in the Gospels occurred in a 32 year. Meanwhile, tradition has preserved a further development to this tragic story. Salome, crossing the river in winter, Sikaris, fell through the ice and was crushed: the body was in the water, and head above the ice. In the end, the sharp ice cut her neck. The corpse of Salome found her and they brought the head to Herod and Herodias. Their lives they ended up in prison in Spain, where, according to legend, were absorbed into a fissure in the ground.

The beheading of St. John the Baptist is always a day of strict fasting, even if it falls on a Sunday, so the Church honors the memory of a Martyr. In Russia this day were closed by the liquor store and stopped the sale of alcoholic beverages, and in 1914 the all-Russian scale of 11 September for the first time celebrated Day of sobriety.

Exactly 100 years later, in 2014, on the initiative of the Russian Orthodox Church this tradition was revived. Now on the day of the beheading of John the Baptist, never in my life have not drunk wine in all the churches of Russia lifted up a special prayer for healing from «the passion of wine drinking».

According to Patriarch Kirill, the example of John the Baptist demonstrates that «there is no God for this life and eternal life — for It is all one life», and «what happens in this life is not the ultimate action, otherwise this story would become meaningless».

«A terrible death at the feast, at the behest of a drunken ruler was not a collapse. It was not a meaningless end of a righteous life, a great feat, martyrdom in the name of God’s truth that makes sense only in the perspective of eternity, and all we commit in this life, good and bad. There, in eternity, all of this finds its ultimate meaning and its ultimate significance,» the Patriarch said in a sermon dedicated to the forerunner.
First and second finding of the head of John the Baptist (March 9)

The body of the Baptist, his disciples buried in the Samaritan city of Sebaste, and his head Herodias hid in the Palace. However, the believer wife of Herod’s steward Chuza carried her out and buried in earthen vessel on the mount of olives in one of Herod’s estates.

The first finding of the head occurred in the fourth century, when the new owner of the manor was to build a Church there. Workers preparing the Foundation, found the vessel with the head of John the Baptist. However, before his death, the nobleman re-hid the Shrine in the same place, fearing that it will fall into the hands of the opponents of the Christians.

After some time, during the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great, the forerunner personally appeared two monks who came to Jerusalem to venerate the Holy places, and revealed to them the whereabouts of her «fair head». According to legend, dug relic, the monks put it in a bag and carried home, but then they gave her to wear encountered on the way unfamiliar to the Potter. And then the Baptist stood by him, and commanded to hide from a frivolous monks, and since then, Potter has become the Keeper of the Shrine. After his death the Saint’s head, sealed in a water-carrying vessel, had been held by the Christians.

Afterwards fallen into heresy, the priest Eustace buried relic in a cave near the Syrian Emessa (now the city of HOMS), and then on the place became a monastery. In 452 John the Baptist in the vision pointed to the Abbot of this monastery, where his head. This event is celebrated as the «second acquisition». Then the Shrine was moved to Constantinople.

The third finding of the head of John the Baptist (June 7)

During religious riots in Constantinople the head of the forerunner was moved back to Emessa, and then, at the beginning of the ninth century, because of Saracen raids in the Abkhaz team. Began when the iconoclastic persecution, it was again concealed in the ground. Only after the restoration of icon-veneration of the Patriarch Ignatius during a night of prayer was revealed to the whereabouts of the Shrine.

The Primate reported to the Emperor, and the head was the third time we acquired Coman (near the present Sukhumi), the Patriarch of the place (about 850 years). Here, in a small grotto, remained faithful venerated a miraculous image of St. John the Baptist. And the head was again transferred to Constantinople, and on 7 June put in the court of the Church. Part of the relics was taken to MT.

In memory of the third finding of the head of Baptist Orthodox Church established the celebration on 25 may (old style, 7 June new).

However, regarding the ultimate destiny of the Shrine today, there are different versions: as a local time there or its parts are Amiens Cathedral in France, the Church of San Silvestro in Capito in Rome, the Umayyad mosque (ancient temple) in Syria, the Coptic monastery of Wadi Natroun and some other places. Perhaps the Shrine was divided into several parts and now kept in various cities.
The transfer of the Baptist right hand from Malta to Gatchina (October 25)

In addition to the head of John the Baptist, the Church particularly honors his «hand» (right hand), where he baptized Christ. It is believed that the right hand of the Baptist, brought from Sebasteia on his home in Syrian Antioch, St. Luke the Evangelist. There she was kept for nearly a thousand years.

But after the conquest of Antioch by the Muslims, the Christian relic have transported to Chalcedon in Asia Minor, and then, in the year 956 in Constantinople. After the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, her relics were kept in the Royal Treasury. However, there is evidence that in the year 1484 the right hand of the Holy forerunner was given away by Sultan Bayazet to the knights of Rhodes, and they moved the Shrine to Malta, where she remained for almost three centuries.

From conception to a terrible death: celebrations and mysteries of John the Baptist© Photo : photo courtesy of Prikhod khrama Pokrova Presvyatoy Bogorodichnyi Zaridze: in miracles easier to believe if it is confirmed newcouple in 1798 the French seized the island, the knights of Malta gave the hand a gift to the Emperor Paul I, who was at that time in Gatchina. It happened on 12 October 1799. In the autumn of the same year the Shrine was moved to St. Petersburg and placed in Spasovo Church in the Winter Palace. For the hand of the Baptist was made the special Golden ark. The festival in honor of this event was established in 1800.

After the 1917 revolution, the relic was taken abroad. In the end she ended up in Montenegro, originally in the monastery of St. Basil of Ostrog and then Cetinska the monastery. There is a right hand of John the Baptist is kept to this day. However, it is missing two fingers: the middle is now in one of the temples of Italian Siena, and the little finger in the Ottoman Museum in Istanbul.

The body of John the Baptist, originally buried at Sebasteia, in the result of the First crusade in the eleventh century were transported to Genoa. Now the relics are kept in a special ark at the Cathedral of St. Lawrence. © RIA Novosti / Olga Lipectomy «John the Baptist», the second half of the XIX century, the old believers of Lithuania From conception to a terrible death: celebrations and mysteries of John the Baptist© RIA Novosti / Olga Lipectomy «John the Baptist», the second half of the XIX century, the old believers of Lithuania