A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
The Beheading of St John the Baptist (Martyrdom, Decollation, John the Forerunner in Eastern Christianity, John the Baptiser, John the Immerser in some Baptist traditions, Elijah who is to come, Yaḥya) (late First Century BCE-c30 CE). Roman Catholic Church Feast Day, Lutheran Lesser Festival and Church of England Commemoration of the death of the Jewish itinerant preacher and second cousin of Jesus. John was born to an elderly couple in answer to their prayers and to preach the coming of the Messiah. He recognises Jesus as the promised Saviour and baptises Him. However, the drunken oath of the dishonourable Herod Antipas, a seductive dance by a princess and the hateful heart of a concubine combined to bring about the Beheading. John was imprisoned in Machaerus, near the Dead Sea in modern Jordan, for publicly reproving Herod Antipas for divorcing his wife and unlawfully taking as his mistress brother’s ex-wife. John had a great influence over the people and Herod feared a rebellion and so, when Salome his mistress’s daughter pleased him by dancing on his birthday, he acceded to her mother’s request to be rewarded with the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Thus, the greatest of prophets suffered the fate of so many Old Testament prophets before him, rejection and martyrdom. The Voice Crying in the Desert accused the guilty and spoke the truth, as he was sent by God to prepare for the Messiah with a vocation of selfless giving. With the Spirit of Yahweh, he said: “I am baptising you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” When he led two of his disciples to Jesus, John watched Him walk by, recognised him and said: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The disciples heard him and followed Jesus. Thus, John pointed the way to Christ and his life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people. After the Beheading, John’s disciples took away the body and buried it in the city of Samaria on the site of the present Palestinian West Bank village of Sebastia, before going to tell Jesus. Venerated in Roman and Eastern Catholic, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, Anglican Communion, Islam, Druze and Baháʼí Faiths, Mandaeism (صَابِئِيَّة). Major shrines Church of St John the Baptist Ein Karem, Jerusalem, Umayyd Mosque, Damascus, Yahya Mosque, Sebastia. One of the five other Orthodox Church feasts ranking as great feasts but not numbered among the Twelve Great Feasts and the Greek Orthodox 10th Sunday of Matthew. The present liturgical commemoration is almost as old as the 24 June commemoration of John’s birth, which is one of the oldest feasts introduced into both the Eastern and Western liturgies to honour a saint. The Synaxis of St John the Baptist, the Orthodox Church remembrance of the saint who participated directly in the Theophany of the Lord (Baptism of Christ) is on 7 January. 29 August in the Julian Calendar, used by the Russian, Macedonian, Serbian and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches, corresponds in the Twenty-First Century to 11 September in the Gregorian Calendar and is always observed with strict fasting, and in some cultures the pious will not eat food from a flat plate, use a knife or eat round food. The Armenian Apostolic Church commemorates the Decollation of St John on the Saturday of Easter Week and the Syriac Orthodox, Indian Orthodox and Syro-Malankara Catholic Churches commemorate his death on 7 January. The Beheading, which is also identified as the Feast of the Translation of John’s Relic, is commemorated on 2 Thout in the Coptic calendar. Nativity celebrated 30 Paoni Coptic. A skull identified as the head of John the Baptist is on display at the Church of San Silvestro in Capite (Basilica of Saint Sylvester the First, Sancti Silvestri in Capite) in Rome, built to house artifacts from the Roman catacombs. Patron saint of Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem, French Canada, Puerto Rico and San Juan, Genoa and many other places. Image: catholicnewsagency.com.
St Sabina, Martyr (d125). Feast Day commemorating the death of the pagan Roman noblewoman and widow who was converted to Christianity by her female slave Seraphia, the latter later refusing to honour the state god Trajan, being accused of witchcraft and hanged. Sabina gathered Seraphia’s remains and buried them in her own mausoleum and, since this was reputed to be a crime, Sabina was under the Emperor Hadrian beheaded on 29 August 125 in the city of Vindena in Umbria. In 430, her relics were translated to the Aventine Hill in Rome where a Basilica was then built in her honour on the site of her house near to a temple of Juno that may have become a Christian church. The Basilica was initially dedicated to both Sabina and Serapia but the dedication was later limited to Sabina. Its ancient features survive to make it one of the most interesting of the Roman basilicas, with columns of Greek Parian marble from the pagan temple and a high altar with the remains of Sts Sabina, Seraphia, Alexander, Evenzio and Teodulo, in addition to other priests and martyrs. Venerated in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches. Major shrine Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill. Image: vaticannews.va.
John Bunyan (1628-88). United States Episcopal Church remembrance of the English spiritual writer, Christian allegorist, Socratic dialogist, poet and Puritan who had joined the Parliamentary Army in the English Civil War. After three years in the army, he returned to his home village near Bedford, worked as a tinker, married and became interested in religion. After a period of acute spiritual anxiety, Bunyan found peace in a Baptist congregation and became a preacher with the Bedford Meeting, a nonconformist group. After the restoration of the monarchy, the freedom of nonconformists was curtailed and he was arrested and spent 12 years in Bedford Gaol for refusing to stop preaching. There, he wrote a spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, and began his most famous book, the Christian allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, published some years after his release. Bunyan was imprisoned again, became pastor of the Bedford Meeting and, falling ill whilst returning there, died in London on 31 August 1688. The Pilgrim’s Progress became one of the most published books in the English language, 1,300 editions having been printed by 1938, two-hundred and fifty years after his death. Bunyan wrote nearly sixty other titles, many of them expanded sermons, including The Life and Death of Mr Badman and The Holy War. Church of England Lesser Festival 30 August. Some other churches of the Anglican Communion, such as the Anglican Church of Australia, honour him on 31 August. Image: youtube.com.
Prayer Father, help us to approach everything we do with a spirit of excellence. Help us to live with a constant awareness of Your evaluating and loving eye, so that we are inspired to do everything as if You had asked us to do it. Thank You that You do not require perfection from us, but simply ask us to do the best we possibly can. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen