FROM THE PROLOGUE OF OCHRID
Because John's main role in his life was played out on the day of the Theophany, the Church has from earliest times dedicated the day following Theophany to his memory. An incident with the hand of the Forerunner is also linked to this feast. The Evangelist Luke desired to remove the body of John from Sebaste, where the great prophet was beheaded by Herod, to Antioch, his place of birth. He succeeded, though, in acquiring and translating only one hand, which was preserved in Antioch until the tenth century. After this it was transferred to Constantinople, whence it disappeared during the time of the Turks.
Feasts of St. John are celebrated several times throughout the year, but this day, January 7, has the most Sve è ara . Among the Gospel personalities who surround the Savior, John the Baptist occupies a totally unique place by the manner of his entry into the world, and by the manner of his life in this world; by his role in baptizing people for repentance; by his baptizing the Messiah; and, finally, by his tragic departure from this life. He was of such moral purity that, in truth, he could be called an angel—as Holy Scripture calls him—rather than a mortal man. St. John especially differs from all other prophets in that he had that privilege of being able, with his hand, to show the world Him about Whom he prophesied.
It is said that every year on the feast of the saint, the bishop brought the hand of St. John before the people. Sometimes the hand appeared open and other times the hand appeared clenched. In the first case it signified a fruitful and bountiful year, and in the second case it meant a year of unfruitfulness and famine.
HYMN OF PRAISE
Thirty years of fasting and silence—
Not even the mountain beasts can endure this!
The lion alleviates his hunger with the music of roaring,
And the tree rustles when the wind approaches.
But you neither rustle, roar nor moan.
Neither your lament nor your song echoes through the wilderness!
Tell me, are you a man? What is your name?
Will you ever want to speak with someone?
“The voice, the voice, the voice: I am the voice—
But He is the Word of God.
To the children of Israel I was sent to cry out:
Repent, O people; behold, He comes.
Bring forth good fruit, each according to your strength.
Behold, behold, He comes—oh, wonder of wonders!
In the midst of the water, fire from heaven is concealed!
Behold, the Lamb of God walks among the wolves.
Wolves, cleanse your lupine temper in the water!”
Thirty years of silence and fasting:
What remains of your body, save your voice?
Your withered body is but a shadow of your voice,
Which proclaims the news: Behold, God is come to us!
Your withered body was a reed, which Herod broke.
But the voice goes on and on, with no one to silence it.
Whose voice is that, at which even the centuries tremble?
A hungry lion! No, no—a man of faith.