Commemorated on August 29th
Beheading of John the Forerunner
John the Baptist, was the son of Zachariah, a temple priest, and his wife Elizabeth, who was a cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was born when his mother was advanced in age, after the foretelling of his birth and the choice of his name by an angel. He began his mission of preaching and baptizing in the river Jordan at about 27 AD. His way of life closely resembled those of some Old Testament prophets, such as Elias. His message was one of repentance and preparation for the coming of the Messiah and His Kingdom. Among his disciples were the Apostles St Peter and St Andrew. John baptized Jesus and recognised Him as the Messiah when he saw the Spirit come down on Him.
John also denounced the incestuous relationship of Herod Antipas with his niece and brother's wife, Herodias, and was imprisoned for doing so. His death was brought about by the hatred of Herodias and the weakness of Herod. When Salome, her daughter, had greatly pleased Herod with her dancing, he promised her anything she wanted. She demanded John's head on a dish. The executioner Machaeus beheaded John and presented his head to Salome, who passed it on to her mother.
John the Baptist was believed to be buried in Samaria where he was honoured in the 4th century, but the tomb was desecrated by Julian the Apostate. The Church keeps a strict fast on this day.
Dismissal Hymn (Second Tone)
The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord's testimony is sufficient for you, O Forerunner; for you have proved to be truly even more venerable than the Prophets, since were granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed. Therefore, having contested for the truth, you rejoiced to announce the good tidings even to those in Hades: that God has appeared in the flesh, taking away the sin of the world and granting us great mercy.