On the Holy and Forerunner St. John the Baptist
On this day we call to remembrance the beheading of the Holy Prophet and Forerunner, St. John the Baptist.
“Herod … is an example of everything evil and impious, whereas John is the pillar of all virtue and godliness. Herod is the fullness of wickedness, the power of ungodliness, the tool of lawlessness, is absolutely carnal and lives according to the flesh. John, by contrast, is the summit of all the God-bearing men down through the ages, the visible resting place of the gifts of the Spirit, who bears the Name of divine grace [His name in Hebrew literally means Yahweh (God) makes grace], and in whom all piety and virtue dwells. Two images are set before us today — extreme opposites at odds with each other. The one seems to bring a little enjoyment and honor in the short term, to those inclined to live after its example; then delivers them up to unceasing, unbearable disgrace and affliction. The other gives those who look towards it short-lived suffering; then bestows on them glory and divine enjoyment, which are beyond description — true and eternal. If we live after the flesh, imitating the carnal Herod, we shall die, as the Apostle says (Romans 8:13). But if, through the divine Spirit and with zeal like John’s, we oppose the body’s evil appetites and deeds, we shall live forever… As spiritual pleasures are both everlasting and beyond compare, and the delights of the flesh are pointless and short-lived, let us, brethren, prefer those which are permanent, ineffable and heavenly, rather than those which are swept away and go into ruin… We should flee from being like Herod and strive as much as we can to imitate the Forerunner’s grace…”
St. Gregory Palamas