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Saints

Commemorated on February 24th

First and Second Finding of the Venerable Head of John the Forerunner

24th Feb

St John the Forerunner (also known as the Baptist) was beheaded at the wish and request of the wicked Herodias, wife of Herod. When John had been beheaded, Herodias ordered that his head should not be buried with his body, for she feared that the terrible prophet would somehow rise from the dead. So she took his head and buried it in some hidden and unworthy place, deep in the earth.

Her lady-in-waiting was Joanna the wife of Chuza, a courtier of Herod's, who waa a good and God-fearing woman that could not bear that the head of the godly man should remain in an unworthy place, so she disinterred it secretly, and took it to Jerusalem where she buried it on the Mount of Olives. Not knowing about all this, King Herod, when he heard about Christ and His great miracles, was afraid and said, "This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!" (Mark 6:16). After a considerable time, an eminent government official came to believe in Christ, left his position in the world and became a monk. Under the name Innocent, he settled on the Mount of Olives, in precisely the place where the Forerunner's head had been buried. Deciding to build himself a cell, he dug deep and found an earthen pot containing a head which, it was revealed to him secretly, was that of the Baptist. He venerated it and re-buried it in the same place.

St John's head was refound during the middle years of the fourth century, through a revelation of the holy Forerunner to two monks, who came to Jerusalem to worship our Saviour's Tomb. One of them took the venerable head in a clay jar to Emesa in Syria. After his death it went from the hands of one person to another, until it came into the possession of a certain priest-monk named Eustathios, an Arian. Because he ascribed to his own false belief the miracles wrought through the relic of the holy Baptist, he was driven from the cave in which he dwelt, and by dispensation forsook the holy head, which was again made known through a revelation of St John, and was found in a water jar, about the year 430 AD, in the days of the Emperor Theodosius the Younger, when Uranios was Bishop of Emesa.

Dismissal Hymn (Fourth Tone)

Be quick to anticipate

The Forerunner's sacred head, having dawned forth from the earth, sends incorruption's rays to the faithful, whereby they find healings of their ills. From on high he gathers the choirs of the Angels and on earth he summons the whole race of mankind, that they with one voice might send up glory to Christ our God.

Kontakion (Second Tone)

You sought the heights

Since we have obtained your head as a most sacred rose from out of the earth, O Forerunner of grace divine, we receive sure healing in every hour, O Prophet of God the Lord; for again, now as formerly, you preach repentance to all the world.