August 29, 2013

The Preaching of Saint John the Forerunner

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos 
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

At the end of the Great Litany, known also as the "Eirinika", having commemorated the Panagia and all the Saints, our Priest urges us to commend our lives to the God-man Christ. In a previous sermon we have spoken about the Panagia. Today we will concentrate on the phrase "with all the Saints", and because of the Feast of the Decapitation of the Head of Saint John the Forerunner and Baptist, we will refer to him, since he is among the Saints.

Saint John the Forerunner received the name John, which is interpreted as "gift of God", and it was given by God Himself. He is called Forerunner, because he preceded Christ and prepared the way for His work. He is characterized as Baptist, because he was made worthy to baptize Christ in the Jordan River. He is a great personality who was praised by Christ Himself, who said of him: "There is none born of a woman who is greater than John the Baptist" (Matt. 11:11).

That which we observe in the Honorable Forerunner is that he is the last Prophet of the Old Testament and the first Prophet of the New Testament, because he lived on the border of both the Old and New Testaments. He is a wonderful link between the Prophets and Apostles.

His preaching was indistinguishable from the preaching of the Prophets and Christ, because he preached repentance. He would say: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near" (Matt. 3:2). The Kingdom of Heaven is Divine Grace, the revelation of Christ as Light, and the participation and communion of man with the Light. Repentance is a precondition for communion with God. This is the core of the preaching of the Church; not several shallow words, not philosophies and opinions, but the indication of how to unite someone with God.

Also, what is admired about Saint John the Forerunner was that he was a herald of the truth. He spoke of Christ who is the Truth, and led people to the Truth. His words were not shallow, conciliatory and false. He rebuked people who approached him as well as Herod, indicating to them the correct way, the restoration of justice, and to align their lives with the Law of God. Of course, this had consequences for him, namely imprisonment and finally beheading unto death. But the most important thing in our lives is to correctly honor the truth.

By preaching repentance and truth the Forerunner was glorified and he entered into history, being honored by all Christians. An Athonite once said that when the false is united, in actuality it is split, while that which is true, even though it is divided it is still united. We see this in the lives of the Saints and naturally in the life of the Honorable Forerunner. He was true, he was linked with the Truth, Christ, he spoke the truth, and until today he lives truly and in reality in the hearts of all Christians, although he is not biologically alive. How many Sacred Churches have been raised in his name! Indeed today all Christians fast strictly and in this way we honor the Honorable Forerunner.

We must be people of the truth and not falsehood, of simplicity and not duplicity and hypocrisy. The Honorable Forerunner, after the Panagia, has great boldness before Christ, which is why we must call upon his intercessions and imitate his example.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ο Τίμιος Πρόδρομος", July 2010. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.