The Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist

O Prophet and Forerunner of the coming of Christ, we honour thee lovingly but cannot extol thee worthily; for by thy birth thy mother's barrenness and thy father 's dumbness were unloosed; and the Incarnation of the Son of God is proclaimed to the world.

FROM THE PROLOGUE OF OCHRID
SAINT NICHOLAI

Six months before his appearance in Nazareth to the All-holy Virgin Mary, the great Gabriel, the archangel of God, appeared to Zacharias the high priest in the Temple at Jerusalem. Before announcing the miraculous conception by the unwedded virgin, the archangel announced the miraculous conception by the childless old woman. Zacharias did not immediately believe the words of the herald of God, and thus his tongue was bound by dumbness and it remained thus until eight days after the birth of John. On that day the relatives of Zacharias and Elizabeth gathered for the young child’s circumcision and naming. When they asked the father what name he wished to give to his son, since he was mute he wrote on a tablet, “John.” At that moment his tongue was loosed and he began to speak. The home of Zacharias was on the heights between Bethlehem and Hebron. Throughout all Israel there was spread the news of the appearance of the angel of God to Zacharias, as well as that of his dumbness and the loosing of his tongue at the moment he wrote the name “John.” The news of this even reached Herod. Therefore, when Herod sent soldiers to slay the children in Bethlehem, he directed men to the hills, to the dwelling place of the family of Zacharias, to kill John also. But Elizabeth promptly hid the child. Enraged at this, King Herod sent his executioners to Zacharias in the Temple to slay him (for it happened that it was again Zacharias’s turn to serve in the Temple of Jerusalem). Zacharias was slain between the court and the temple and his blood coagulated and petrified on the paving stones and remained a perpetual witness against Herod. Elizabeth hid with the child in a cave, where she died soon after. The young child John remained alone in the wilderness under the care of God and His angels.

HYMN OF PRAISE

Saint John the Baptist
By a miracle of God John entered the world,
As once did Sarah and Abraham’s Isaac;
By a miracle of God he remained alive
From Herod’s bloody knife.
The knife missed the young child John,
But did not miss John’s father.
By a miracle of God John sustained himself
For thirty years in the desert.
To a servant of God, angels are shepherds;
To the poor, angels are guardians!
John grew, a loveable lamb,
That he might serve the Lamb of God,
That he might proclaim the bright day before the sun.
He recognized and glorified the unknown One.
He was the last of the great prophets,
And the beginning of God’s apostles.
Like Elias he spoke with God,
And like an apostle he loved and rebuked.
Wondrous son of the high priest,
First-crowned brother of the martyrs of God.