On the seventh of this month [January], the Synaxis of the Honorable Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John. We gather together also for the translation of his all-honorable hand to Constantinople.
How shall this tongue of mine now praise you, O Preacher,
Whom Christ’s tongue called greater than all the earth-born?
The famous Forerunner’s memorial is the lot of the seventh.
One day after Theophany, namely on this day, we have have received from on high and from the beginning to celebrate the Synaxis and Feast of the Honorable Forerunner and Baptist John, because he served the Mystery of Baptism to the Lord. For this reason this feast is numbered among the other feasts of the Forerunner. May we never be silent concerning his wonders and supernatural graces.
It followed that there arrived in Constantinople on the evening after Theophany, the honorable hand of the Forerunner by translation. It took place in the following manner. In the city of Sebaste, it is said that the sacred and honorable body of the Forerunner was buried, and the Evangelist Luke went there, taking the right hand of that prophetic body, where he took it to his homeland in Antioch. Numerous miracles took place there, among which is the following. At the city limits of Antioch, there lurked a dragon, which was divinized by the Greeks who inhabited Antioch, and they honored it every year with a sacrifice. The worst thing was that they offered a person as a sacrifice. As time passed, the lot fell upon a Christian to offer his daughter to the dragon. This dragon would come out of its nest, which was a fearsome and extraordinary sight, and it would open its mouth and swallow the person offered. In this way they would be ripped apart in its teeth.
For this reason the father of this daughter fervently pleaded with weeping and tears to God and the Honorable Forerunner, to liberate his homeland of this bitter corrupter. Pleading thus, he was given the wisdom to undertake the following. He asked to venerate the holy hand of the Forerunner. And as he went to kiss it, he secretly bit off the thumb with his teeth. Having achieved what he desired, he left the church. When the day for his daughter to be sacrificed came, and the entire crowd of people were present, the father approached the dragon, holding his daughter. When he saw the dragon open its mouth to swallow his daughter, he threw down its throat the sacred thumb of the Forerunner. And - O the wonder! - immediately the dragon was killed. When this happened, the father took his daughter alive, and returned rejoicing to his home, where he told of this strange event. When the crowd of people saw this wonder, they were astounded. Wherefore they greatly thanked God and the Honorable Forerunner, and they built a great Temple in his name.
The following is also said about this holy hand. On the day of the Elevation of the Honorable Cross, which is the fourteenth of September, the honorable hand of the Baptist was also elevated, and the fingers would either extend or gather in. When they gathered in it showed future fruitless ill-fortune. For this reason many kings loved and desired much to acquire this sacred treasure, especially Constantine and Romanos Porphyrogennetos. Constantine reigned from 913 to 959 and Romanos from 920 to 944. During their reign, a Deacon of the city of Antioch, who was called Job, brought this honorable hand to Constantinople, on the evening of Theophany, which according to tradition the Christians were sanctified on the eve of Theophany. Wherefore the Christ-loving emperor (Constantine, that is) embraced it with much longing, and he kept it as a treasure in his palace. His Synaxis is celebrated in the Sphorakion.*
Note by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite:
* Now the right hand of the Honorable Forerunner is in the Monastery of Saint Dionysios, which is on the Holy Mountain, where the name of the Honorable Forerunner is honored.
Apolytikion in the Second Tone
The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord's testimony is enough for thee, O Forerunner, for thou wast shown to be more wonderful than the Prophets, since thou wast granted to baptize in the running waters Him whom thou didst proclaim. Then having endured great suffering for the Truth, thou didst rejoice to bring, even to those in hades, the good tidings that God Who had appeared in the flesh takes away the sin of the world, and grants us the great mercy.
Kontakion in Plagal of the Second Tone
Jordan turned back in fear at the sight of Thy bodily presence. And having fulfilled his prophetic ministry, John drew back trembling. The Angelic orders were amazed to see Thee in the flesh baptized in the waters. And all in darkness were illumined and praised Thee Who had appeared and enlightened all creation.
With your hand you baptized, O Baptizer, leading Isreal through the sea, of all the Prophets you showed to be the highest, wherefore we praise your divine grace.