August 29, 2014

The Attributes of the Honorable Forerunner and Baptist John

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

When the priest, my beloved brethren, does the dismissal of the Divine Liturgy and every other service, he commemorates after Christ various saints in the following order, namely the Panagia and Mother of Christ, the Honorable Cross, the Angels, the Honorable Forerunner and Baptist, the Apostles, the Martyrs, the venerable Fathers, the saints of the day and lastly all the saints. It thus seems clear that the Honorable Forerunner has a high position, between the Panagia and the Apostles. And this shows the great importance the Church gives to the person of the Honorable Forerunner.

If everyone who enters life has the deep purpose of becoming a saint, for the Kingdom of God to come, the Honorable Forerunner together with this general purpose had another purpose, which was to prepare people to receive Christ. This is why he is called the "Forerunner". His birth was the fruit of prayer and a special energy of God. The way he was raised was wondrous, since he lived in the desert from the age of three. His work was great, since he preached repentance and led the people to it, and he was truly the "most-revered of the prophets". When he met Christ, he showed the greatness of his humility. And the way he departed this life was grand. Having rebuked the sin of Herod publicly, he was then made worthy of a martyric death. Therefore, in his person are gathered together the attributes of all the saints, namely the life of the Ascetics, the work of the Apostles, the vision of the Prophets, and the confession and courage of the Martyrs.

All the known saints had a biographer to make their virtues and glorious life known. The Honorable Forerunner, however, had no need of a biographer, because he had the testimony of Christ. This is what the Apolytikion to the Honorable Forerunner says: "The memory of the just deserves an encomium, but the testimony of the Lord sufficed for you, O Forerunner." And indeed Christ praised him with the most powerful words: "No one born of a woman was greater than John the Baptist" (Matt. 11:11). This means that no one else who appeared in history up until that point was greater than the Forerunner. Saint Cyril of Alexandria says that Christ spoke these words "for his great value and the arrogance of the king". And Saint John Chrysostom says: "No woman gave birth to anyone greater".

When Christ praises someone, then no other praises are required from men. If everyone praises us, but Christ does not accept us, then it is good for absolutely nothing. Conversely, if Christ praises us, then this constitutes our salvation, even if we are despised by all.

We must strive to hear this praise of Christ, when He will confess before His Father those who lived with Him, and not struggle to be praised by men. We will achieve this if we live the life and have the disposition, have the quietude and have the confession of the Honorable Forerunner, whose supplications may we have towards the compassionate God.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Άγιος Ιωάννης ο Πρόδρομος", August 1999. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.