Wednesday, September 10, 2014

911: The Beheading Of The Last Prophet (Saint John the Baptist)

911: The Beheading Of The Last Prophet (Saint John the Baptist)

September 11/August 29: the commemoration of the beheading of
Saint John the Baptist. A full fast. Note the date according to the
Julian calendar: it falls on 911. Is it somehow a sign? Or should one
refrain from all sorts of interpretations? Nonetheless, it is quite
noticeable and as years pass, the date that is so special for the
Americans and the Western world becomes more significant. The terrorists
who flew into the Twin Towers were definitely not Christian. On the
other hand, they did come from the East. East is not West as we all
recall and, at times, people do not care or listen. We, Orthodox, in
particular in Jerusalem do know by in-born nature that there is a
terrific Western-style sort of "arrogance", esp. from the part of the
Church, not that I intend to be judgmental - I know them quite well -
but there is a sort of "cover", a kind of "head cover", far more
dangerous than any "burqa" that blinds and blurs the way Western
Christianity rushes along to goals they do not cope with from inside.
One thing is striking: 911 terror attack took place on the memorial day
of the most hideous act committed against the forerunner and baptist of
Jesus of Nazareth. Saint John the Baptist is positively mentioned in the
Talmud as a saint man. He is not "denied". Past Sunday, The Eastern
Orthodox Church of Jerusalem proposed the reading of the Gospel of the
vinedressers who killed these and those and even the son... these days,
we often hear of beheadings in the Middle-East committed by people who
pretend to act according to their way of being true faithful. Lots of
individuals have been beheaded throughout history in many places: as if
the head could symbolize the "location" of intelligence, human being,
mind, understanding thus placed at the top of the body.

Saint John the Baptist was beheaded for a dance. Some spiritual
fathers and directors opined that this si why dance is a sin. This
swayed around at different periods of the Church history. Salome got the
head of the saint man because of a full twisted situation at all levels
of the then-reigning authorities. Corruption and betrayal. Beheadings
have been performed in the Christian world: during the French Revolution
but also the Russian Revolution in 1917. The French "guillotine" was
still in use in France some two decades ago.

At the present, we see daily beheadings with a sabre (curved sword) in the Middle-East and the world is in shock.

As I was heading home in the bus, from Ramot to Jaffa Gate (Old City
of Jerusalem) on that September 11, 2001, we all were listening to the
news. The reporter was trying to explain on the Israeli radio what was
going on in the morning in New York. We were at the end of the day in
Israel. People were staring, in shock, no words and things got clear to
me when I arrived at Jaffa Gate. There was a TV at the coffee-shop and
we could see, scrolling up and down and up and down again the falling
towers, also a sort of "beheading". In the bus, there were a lot of
American born Israelis. At Jaffa Gate, there were mainly the local Arabs
and they looked, stared, fascinated by the "absolutely unexpected TV

We are in the East. Jewish tradition and all the other local
traditions do know of the crude way, harsh capacities of the human
beings to face life and/or death. In the West, "beheading" is a murder
that "cuts, stops" i.e. kills and remove life. This is why the lives of
the Saints are so important: Saint Denis of Paris, the founder of the
Church and first bishop of Lutèce (Paris) was also beheaded but the
account of his death reports that, though beheaded close the the present
Montmartre, he took his head and carried it till the place called
nowadays Saint-Denis.

In Hebrew, "cherev/חרב " is the sword or sabre that causes a full
ruine. The sword intends to ruine, devastate, exterminate. It is the
same root as "churban/חורבן that is "chirb'n" in Yiddish, total

One should know that this very date, maybe by some unexplained fate
or hazard, became the date that so deeply impacted the United States and
the Western world in 2002 and continues to interrogate us, because
Christians and "other minorities" are still tortured that way in
countries that have first received the message of redemption for all

av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

Commemoration of the Beheading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John


August 29

Life of the Saint

The divine Baptist, the Prophet born of a Prophet, the seal of
all the Prophets and beginning of the Apostles, the mediator between the
Old and New Covenants, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, the
God-sent Messenger of the incarnate Messiah, the forerunner of Christ's
coming into the world (Isaiah 40:3; Mal. 3: 1); who by many miracles was
both conceived and born; who was filled with the Holy Spirit while yet
in his mother's womb; who came forth like another Elias the Zealot,
whose life in the wilderness and divine zeal for God's Law he imitated:
this divine Prophet, after he had preached the baptism of repentance
according to God's command; had taught men of low rank and high how they
must order their lives; had admonished those whom he baptized and had
filled them with the fear of God, teaching them that no one is able to
escape the wrath to come if he do not works worthy of repentance; had,
through such preaching, prepared their hearts to receive the evangelical
teachings of the Savior; and finally, after he had pointed out to the
people the very Savior, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh
away the sin of the world" (Luke 3:2-18; John 1: 29-36), after all this,
John sealed with his own blood the truth of his words and was made a
sacred victim for the divine Law at the hands of a transgressor.

This was Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee, the son of Herod the
Great. This man had a lawful wife, the daughter of Arethas (or Aretas),
the King of Arabia (that is, Arabia Petraea, which had the famous
Nabatean stone city of Petra as its capital. This is the Aretas
mentioned by Saint Paul in II Cor. 11:32). Without any cause, and
against every commandment of the Law, he put her away and took to
himself Herodias, the wife of his deceased brother Philip, to whom
Herodias had borne a daughter, Salome. He would not desist from this
unlawful union even when John, the preacher of repentance, the bold and
austere accuser of the lawless, censured him and told him, "It is not
lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife" (Mark 6: 18). Thus Herod,
besides his other unholy acts, added yet this, that he apprehended John
and shut him in prison; and perhaps he would have killed him
straightway, had he not feared the people, who had extreme reverence for
John. Certainly, in the beginning, he himself had great reverence for
this just and holy man. But finally, being pierced with the sting of a
mad lust for the woman Herodias, he laid his defiled hands on the
teacher of purity on the very day he was celebrating his birthday. When
Salome, Herodias' daughter, had danced in order to please him and those
who were supping with him, he promised her -- with an oath more foolish
than any foolishness -- that he would give her anything she asked, even
unto the half of his kingdom. And she, consulting with her mother,
straightway asked for the head of John the Baptist in a charger. Hence
this transgressor of the Law, preferring his lawless oath above the
precepts of the Law, fulfilled this godless promise and filled his
loathsome banquet with the blood of the Prophet. So it was that that
all-venerable head, revered by the Angels, was given as a prize for an
abominable dance, and became the plaything of the dissolute daughter of a
debauched mother. As for the body of the divine Baptist, it was taken
up by his disciples and placed in a tomb (Mark 6: 21 - 29). The findings
of his holy head are commemorated on February 24 and May 25.

Orthodox Christian Commemoration of the Beheading of John the Baptist

The commemoration of the beheading of John the Baptist is observed
with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted in
the morning and preceded by a Matins (Orthros) service.

Scripture readings for the commemoration are the following: At the Matins: Matthew 14:1-13.  At the Divine Liturgy:  Acts 13:25-33; Mark 6:14-30. (If the feast falls on a Sunday the Gospel readings may vary.)

The day is also commemorated with a strict fast no matter what day of the week it may be.

Hymns of the Saint

Apolytikion (Second Tone)

The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the
Lord's testimony is sufficient for you, O Forerunner; for you have
proved to be truly even more venerable than the Prophets, since you were
granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed.
Wherefore, having contested for the truth, you rejoiced to announce the
good tidings even to those in Hades: that God has appeared in the flesh,
taking away the sin of the world and granting us great mercy.

Kontakion (Plagal of the First Tone)

The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was a certain divine
dispensation, that the coming of the Savior might also be preached to
those in Hades.  Let Herodias lament, then, that she demanded a wicked
murder; for she loved not the Law of God, nor eternal life, but one
false and fleeting.

av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]