Posted by: Fr Chris | June 29, 2022

Nativity of John the Baptist – June 24

My home parish in Kenmore, New York, is dedicated to this saint;

There are 3 statues of John the Baptist at our original parish: Larger than life statue by the high altar – pointing to heaven, clothed in animal skin, lifting up a cross; Life sized outside the church – baptizing Jesus where two main streets intersect, and holding a cross; Oldest one, carved by our first pastor’s brother, again of John baptizing Jesus, and holding up a cross. On all three poles there is a script saying Behold the Lamb of God.

 The angel tells Zechariah to name the child John, which means “the Lord has been gracious.” John’s greatness comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.

Elizabeth – how did she know that the baby should be named John? Apparently, she like most women of that time and region was illiterate, so her husband could not write her a message after the vision in the temple. So, everyone is astounded when Zechariah writes out the sentence His name shall be John, confirming what Elizabeth had just said. She obviously had heard  the message of the Holy Spirit, which reflects her religious piety, her own personal holiness and closeness to God. She listened to the Lord more closely than her husband the priest had.

The statues at my home parish show John doing what he came to do: pointing the way for people, pointing to heaven as our ultimate destiny, carrying a pole that looks like a processional cross, and baptizing Jesus. The baptism of Christ in the Jordan is the opportunity for the Father to confirm that Jesus is His beloved Son, and also to launch Jesus into his public ministry. The Gospels show John coming out of the desert and preparing the Jews for that public ministry, for the arrival at last of the long-awaited Messiah.

John is always pointing – towards Jesus, towards heaven, holding a cross. On our iconostas this 300-year-old icon, known as the Melismos, shows him pointing to the Infant Jesus on the diskos where the bread is placed during the rite of preparation, under the star of Bethlehem, testifying to the real presence of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. John shows us that Jesus is truly in Holy Communion: Behold the Lamb of God once again.

We know that Peter’s brother Andrew was a disciple of John, and Andrew brings Peter to Christ.

Do I point the way to Christ like Andrew did? Do I point out the reality of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist, like John does in the icon? Am I looking for heaven and its promise, or am I looking for fulfillment here on earth? Do I listen, like Elizabeth did, to hear what God has to say to me? If someone knows me, what do they say I am pointing to through my words, my behavior, my internet searches, my reading?

Do I show the way?

Which of his parents am I?

Elizabeth, who trusted in God so much that she stood up against everyone else when it came to naming her son?

Zechariah, who doubted God despite all of his theological knowledge?

This feast is the oldest feast day of any saint, that’s how significant John is supposed to be to the Christian. He gives up the possibility of home and family to live in the desert and to proclaim the message that someone greater than he is coming, the one who Israel has longed for. My job – our job – is to do the same thing for the people we live with and around.

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