A good many Orthodox Christians are celebrating Christmas today.
With them I say, “Christ is born and God is with us! Happy Feast!”
(Though I hope they are not looking at the computer today!) BUT – I am among those who celebrated the last two weeks, and have just completed the Twelve Days, and Theophany… So, we come to the Synaxis of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John.
From The Orthodox Church in America:
“In the Orthodox Church it is customary, on the day following the Great Feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God, to remember those saints who participated directly in the sacred event. So, on the day following the Theophany of the Lord, the Church honors the one who participated directly in the Baptism of Christ, placing his own hand upon the head of the Savior.
“Saint John, the holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, whom the Lord called the greatest of the prophets, concludes the history of the Old Testament and opens the era of the New Testament. The holy Prophet John bore witness to the Only-Begotten Son of God, incarnate in the flesh. Saint John was accounted worthy to baptize Him in the waters of the Jordan, and he was a witness of the Theophany of the Most Holy Trinity on the day of the Savior’s Baptism.
“The holy Prophet John, the son of the Priest Zachariah and Righteous Elizabeth, was related to the Lord on His mother’s side. The holy Forerunner John was born six months before Christ. The Archangel Gabriel announced his birth in the Temple at Jerusalem, revealing to Zachariah that a son was to be born to him.
“Through the prayers offered beforehand, the child was filled with the Holy Spirit. Saint John prepared himself in the wilds of the desert for his great service by a strict life, by fasting, prayer and sympathy for the fate of God’s people.
“At the age of thirty, he came forth preaching repentance. He appeared on the banks of the Jordan, to prepare the people by his preaching to accept the Savior of the world. In church hymnology, Saint John is called a “bright morning star,” whose gleaming outshone the brilliance of all the other stars, announcing the coming dawn of the day of grace, illumined with the light of the spiritual Sun, our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Having baptized the sinless Lamb of God, Saint John soon died a martyr’s death, beheaded by the sword on orders of King Herod at the request of his daughter Salome.”
As the lover of the Spirit,
the swallow that brings divine tidings of grace, O Forerunner,
thou hast made known clearly to mankind the dispensation of the King,
Who shone forth in brightness from a pure Virgin for the restoration of man.
Thou dost banish the dominion of dark and evil ways,
and guide the hearts of those baptized in repentance to eternal life,
O blessed Prophet inspired by God!
-Hymn of the Feast