AUGUST 25, 2019 - "BEHEADING OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST"
In the ranks of the Saints, John the Baptist occupies a unique position. He was a prophet of the Old Testament, preaching repentance because the Kingdom of God was at hand; and he was an apostle of the New Testament, proclaiming the Presence of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Jesus Himself calls him the greatest “among those that are born of women.” No wonder the Church remembers the days of both his conception and birth and sets aside in the calendar the day of his death by decapitation as the hands of Herod.
Our icon captures the spirit and the story of this Forerunner of our Lord. Garbed in camel’s hair, the gaunt figure of John appears in the wilderness, his right hand raised in a gesture of preaching, while his left clutches an open scroll exhorting “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…” The figure of Christ is often set in the celestial sphere at the upper left, and it is in this direction that the Baptist is turned. The rocks in the background are reminders of the wilderness in which St. John lived.
In the lower left-hand corner is the cup and plate on which the head of the Baptist is depicted. John was in prison at the time of Herod’s birthday feast, at which he promised the daughter of Herodias anything she would ask. At her mother’s prompting, she asked for the head of the Baptist, because he had objected to her marriage to Philip, Herod’s brother. And so, the Baptist was martyred, and his disciples took the body and reverently buried it.