the Church's feasts, there are three in honor of God's saint which in
their significance stand out from the others devoted to the saints and
are numbered among the great feasts of the Church of Christ. These
feasts glorify the economy of God for our salvation.
three feasts are the Nativity of St. John the Forerunner, his
Beheading, and the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.
apparition of the holy Archangel Gabriel to the priest Zacharias in the
Temple, with the announcement of the birth to him and the righteous
Elizabeth, of a son who would prepare the way for the Lord, the Savior
of the world, and the subsequent fulfillment of this premise, are the
first of the events related by the Evangelists.
announcement of the holy Archangel Gabriel to Zacharias in the Temple
begins the New Testament Gospel. The announcement of the same Archangel
Gabriel six months later in Nazareth to the Virgin Mary concerning the
birth from Her of the Son of God, Who was to become incarnate, is a
continuation of the revelation of the Pre-eternal Counsel concerning the
salvation of the human race.
months after, the Annunciation, St. John the Forerunner was born "in a
city of Judah," and six months after him Christ Himself was born in
events are closely bound together. "The glorious conception of the
Forerunner proclaimeth beforehand the King Who is to be born of a
Virgin" (Exapostilarion, Sept. 23, Feast of the Conception of John the
Baptist). The announcement of the Archangel Gabriel in the Temple,
announced later to all living nearby by Zacharias, in the magnificent
hymn, which he sang after the birth of the child, John and the
restoration to him of the gift of speech (Luke 1:67-79), is the
forerunner of the angelic hymn: "Glory to God in the highest;" which was
sung in Bethlehem by the angels when they announced to the shepherds
the Nativity of Christ.
Nativity of John the Baptist is the first joy sent down by God to the
human race, the beginning of its deliverance from the power of the
devil, sin and eternal death.
is true that even before the Forerunner, the Most Holy Virgin Mary was
born, and angels announced Her birth to Her parents. However, at that
time, only Her parents knew of the exalted lot that was prepared for the
Virgin Who was born, and they themselves were not fully aware of what
had been announced to them beforehand. Therefore, it was only they, who
celebrated at the birth of their Daughter, while the rest of the world
only later understood the joy that had been announced (to it), by this
this reason, the feasts of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos and
Her Entrance into the Temple were established in the Church and began to
be solemnly celebrated significantly later than the other great feasts,
whereas the Nativity of John the Forerunner is one of the most ancient
and most venerated of Christian feasts. Sermons on this feast have been
preserved from the first centuries.
the day of the Nativity of John the Forerunner, the preparation of the
human race begins for meeting the Son of God on earth. Blessed be the
Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people . . .
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Most High: for thou
shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways (Luke 1:68,
76). These God-inspired words of the priest Zacharias, after he had
regained the gift of speech, were made known in all the land of Judea,
causing disturbance to all living there, who asked each other in
astonishment: What manner of child shall this be? (Luke 1:66).
the thought arose: Is this not the Messiah Himself? Judea was in an
especially tense state of expectation of the Savior. Thus, the child
John prepared the way for the Lord by his very birth; and even while he
was still in the womb of His mother, by his leaping (Luke 1:41) he
announced the coming birth of the Child Jesus, as if crying out: "Christ
is born, give ye glory. Christ comes from heaven, meet ye Him" (Irmos,
Canticle One of the Canon, Feast of the Nativity of Christ).
born exactly half a year before Christ, John the Forerunner by the
exact time of his birth depicted his mission of preparing the way for
the Lord. He was born at the time of the year (June 24) when the day
begins to grow shorter after the summer solstice, whereas the Nativity
of Christ occurs (December 25) when the day begins to grow longer after
the winter solstice. These facts are an embodiment of the words spoken
later, by the Forerunner, after the beginning of Christ's preaching: He
must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).
herald of the Sun, the Forerunner" was John the Baptist, who was like
the morning star that announces the rising of the Sun of Righteousness
in the East.
as the very event of the Nativity of John the Baptist was the
antechamber of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, so also the feast
of the Nativity of John the Forerunner is also the antechamber of the
feast of the Nativity of Christ. "The star of stars, the Forerunner, is
born on earth today, from a barren womb, John the beloved of God, and
manifests the dawning of Christ, the Orient from on high" (Glory at
Lauds, of the Feast, June 24). "The whole creation rejoiceth at thy
divine nativity: for thou wast shown forth as an earthly angel, O
Forerunner and a heavenly man, proclaiming to us, the God of heaven
incarnate" (Cantile Five of the Canon). "O Prophet and Forerunner of the
coming of Christ, we who venerate thee with love, are in perplexity how
worthily to praise thee; for the barrenness of her who bore thee and
the dumbness of thy father are loosed by thy glorious and precious
nativity, and the incarnation of the Son of God is preached to the
world" (Troparion of the Feast).