On the 23rd of September of each year, we honor the conception of the Holy Forerunner of Jesus Christ and King of the Prophets, Saint John the Baptist, who came from the wilderness and cried out in pain, “Repent!”
His conception was miraculous and it was a product of his parent’s prayers, but when Archangel Gabriel came to John’s father, priest Zacharia, to announce the good news , that God Had decided to give them a baby , a boy , he showed disbelief, because his wife, Elisabeth was not only over 40 years old, but also a barren. Then the Angel put a canon on him , that he wouldn’t be able to hear or speak again until his son would be born. And so it happened, his wife gave birth to a healthy boy, and everyone wanted to name him Zacharias, after his father, but priest Zacharias, John’s father, wrote on a plate the name John. Immediately his health was restored and he was able to hear and speak as before.
Another supernatural event took place, that we can read in Luke’s Gospel ( * ) chapter A’ verses 39- 49 , with the power of the Holy Spirit, when Mary, Most Holy Theotokos ( Panagia in Greek) , visited Elisabeth, who was Her cousin. Mary was three months pregnant with Jesus Christ and Elisabeth was about nine months pregnant, when Saint John the Baptist, in an embryac stage , from the womb of his mother, recognized the presence of Jesus Christ, in Mary’s womb as well, both from David’s root and jumped as to greet Him !
And as Mary Rejoiced , said : ” My soul Magnifies God !”
* (Apostle Luke was the only Evangelist that drew the Icon of Most Holy Theotokos , and when She oversaw it, She said to him that She was pleased with the result. First St. Luke drew with WAX and MASTIC the Icon of the Holy Theotokos with Christ in Her arms and then, after painting two more, he transferred them to Jerusalem , to show them to the VIRGIN MARY Herself and to ask Her, if She likes them, by wanting to know:
“What kind of virtue does She sees in them ”
She then accepted them and said:
“The Grace of the One who has been birthed and lived in Me ,
is being handed through Me to them.”
Gospel of Luke 1: 39-56
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are You among women, and blessed Is the child You will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of Your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed Is She who Has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to Her!”
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and My spirit rejoices in God My Savior,
48 for He has been mindful
of the humble state of His servant.
From now on all generations will call Me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for Me—
Holy Is His name.
After this, Mary stayed with Elizabeth, Her cousin, for three months, and returned to Her home with Joseph.
This is how the Prophet Isaiah preached of the Lord’s Forerunner, John:
“Crying out, into the desert, prepare the road for the Lord,” he said,
Isaiah 40: 3-5.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough ways smooth;
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”
The words of the Prophet were allegorical, he called the people of Israel to clean their hearts from the sin , like a meadow that needs meticulous cleaning from the weeds and other wild plants. One can not receive in his heart , the gifts of Salvation that Jesus Christ Has to offer, and so if one doesn’t want to respond to Jesus’ calling , he cannot have access to deification [ Theosis by grace] or the virtues that are pouring out of the Holy Spirit; one can understand the words of the Messiah’s first coming , only if he has some presuppositions – pure heart , good intention , the will to take up their cross and follow their new friend in His new creation , Jesus Christ , the Living Bread of Life. That is why John the Foreruner , was calling for the men and women of Israel , to prepare the way for the only Uncreated King , and the only Uncreated Light ; he was preparing them in order to be receptant to the donation of freedom from hades’ chains, from the darkness and cold that follows a soul that has lived and wished to live an unclean life. And for calling out sin and death, he was killed , to stop him examining their blurry hearts.
Let us repent so deeply and so sincerely that we become “pure” like the morning dew and like the first rays of the sun that fall on it. Saint Nicholas Velimirovich
Thirty years of silence and fasting,
what is left of your body besides your voice?
Your dry body is nothing but
a shadow of your voice,
which proclaims the new: Behold, God is coming to us!
Your dry body was a reed. which Herod broke
But the voice goes on, it goes on. no one can silence her.
Whose voice is this? that at the sound of it even the centuries tremble?
A hungry lion? No, No – a man of faith.
Saint Nikolaos Velimirovich, “The Prologue of Ohrid”, (January), Ed. Athos
Τhe reading from the Holy Gospel, for the Sunday before the Theophany of Christ according to St. Mark. (1:1-8)
The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey.
And he preached, saying, “After me comes He Who is mightier than I, the strap of Whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
On the 6th of January of each year, we honor the Theophany of Jesus Christ .
There is a liturgy perfomed and a Cross is thrown in the sea, for the Orthodox Christians , who jump in the water to reach for the Holy Cross. Every river, every lake and sea , wherever there is water , becomes Holy , through the Holy Cross.