Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada


This Friday, September 11, we shall be celebrating a Feast that requires a fast. We shall be commemorating the Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptizer John. That is the glorious title that the Church has given him in recognition of the special place he has in the assembly of Saints.

He is a prophet because he spoke the words God gave him to speak. He did so with courage and authority. Many heard him and their souls were stirred to repent, that is to turn their lives around - to follow the laws of God rather than merely obeying the their own will and desires. That is what living in the Kingdom of God is: acknowledging His laws and aspiring to live by them. These are the laws of love. They are comprised of things such as justice, truth, kindness and mercy.

John is also called the Forerunner because he preceded Christ in His ministry. The Prophet Malachi foretold his coming, calling him Elijah (Malachi 4:5), which Jesus confirmed (Matthew 11:14). John did not only prepare the way for Christ to come, preach, teach and work wonders liberating people from sin, sickness and death in this world of time and space. He also preceded Him to the place where the souls of the departed awaited the liberation brought by the coming of the victorious Victim, Whose blood shed upon the Cross forever broke the chains of sin and death.

John died at the hands of Herod's soldiers, when Herod tragically gave way to the temptation of pride and vanity (he gave the order to kill him only because he did not want to lose face before his guests when Salome, coached by her mother, Herodias, asked for John's head on a plate as a reward for her dance). Thus John's righteous soul, too, went to that mysterious place, which was soon to be filled with light at the coming of the Glorious Lamb, Jesus, slain for us. And he announced that coming to all the souls awaiting this joyous event.

Thus we celebrate John, who baptized Christ, initiating Him into the ministry He fulfilled for all the universe. Celebrating, we ask to be filled with the same Spirit that moved him to be the Lion of God that he was (it is this likeness that gives the Gospel of Mark its symbol - since Mark begins his account with the preaching of John). And we recall that this Lion was led by the Lamb. So may we all be today and forever.