NATIVITY OF THE FORERUNNER JOHN THE BAPTIST
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS
Nativity of the Forerunner John the Baptist, Elizabeth, Mother of the Forerunner, Athanasios Parios, Panagiotis the New Martyr
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS 13:11-14; 14:1-4
Brethren, salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for God is able to make him stand.
LUKE 1:24-25, 57-68, 76, 80
At that time, Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias conceived, and for five months hid herself, saying, "Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men." Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zacharias after his father, but his mother said, "Not so; he shall be called John." And they said to her, "None of your kindred is called by this name." And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, "His name is John." And they all marveled. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, "What then will this child be?" For the hand of the Lord was with him. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, and you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways." And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel.
The Nativity of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John: The Gospel (Luke. 1: 5) relates that the righteous parents of Saint John the Baptist, the Priest Zachariah and Elizabeth (September 5), lived in the ancient city of Hebron. They reached old age without having children, since Elizabeth was barren. Once, Saint Zachariah was serving in the Temple at Jerusalem and saw the Archangel Gabriel, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. He predicted that Saint Zachariah would father a son, who would announce the Savior, the Messiah, awaited by the Old Testament Church. Zachariah was troubled, and fear fell upon him. He had doubts that in old age it was possible to have a son, and he asked for a sign. It was given to him, and it was also a chastisement for his unbelief. Zachariah was struck speechless until the time of the fulfillment of the archangel’s words.
Saint Elizabeth came to be with child, and fearing derision at being pregnant so late in life, she kept it secret for five months. Then her relative, the Virgin Mary, came to share with her Her own joy. Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” was the first to greet the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. Saint John leaped in his mother’s womb at the visit of the Most Holy Virgin Mary and the Son of God incarnate within Her.
Soon Saint Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and all the relatives and acquaintances rejoiced together with her. On the eighth day, in accordance with the Law of Moses, he was circumcised and was called John. Everyone was amazed, since no one in the family had this name. When they asked Saint Zachariah about this, he motioned for a tablet and wrote on it: “His name is John.” Immediately his tongue was loosed, and Saint Zachariah glorified God. He also prophesied about the Coming into the world of the Messiah, and of his own son John, the Forerunner of the Lord (Luke. 1: 68-79).
After the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the worship of the shepherds and the Magi, wicked king Herod gave orders to kill all male infants. Hearing about this, Saint Elizabeth fled into the wilderness and hid in a cave. Saint Zachariah was at Jerusalem and was doing his priestly service in the Temple. Herod sent soldiers to him to find out the abode of the infant John and his mother. Zachariah answered that their whereabouts were unknown to him, and he was killed right there in the Temple. Righteous Elizabeth continued to live in the wilderness with her son and she died there. The child John, protected by an angel, dwelt in the wilderness until the time when he came preaching repentance, and was accounted worthy to baptize the Lord.
Saint Anthony of Dymsk was born at Novgorod about the year 1157. Once in church he heard the words of Christ: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mt.16:24), the saint resolved to leave the world and receive monastic tonsure under Saint Barlaam of Khutyn (November 6) at his monastery.
When he was dying, Saint Barlaam appointed Saint Anthony as igumen in his place; but Anthony, shunning glory, left the monastery and settled at the shores of Lake Dyma, on the outskirts of the city of Tikhvin. Here he founded a monastery and struggled there until the end of his own life.
According to Tradition, Saint Anthony made a journey to Constantinople, and returned to his monastery on the day that the igumen Barlaam died. Saint Anthony fell asleep in the Lord on June 24, 1224. In the year 1330 his relics were found incorrupt, and from that time they were glorified by many miracles.
Saint Anthony of Dymsk is also commemorated on January 17.
The Righteous Youths James and John of Meniugi were brothers by birth, children of the pious couple Isidore and Barbara. They were killed by miscreants (James at three years of age, and John at five years of age).
Between the years 1682-1689 their relics were found incorrupt and were placed in a reliquary at the Trinity church in Meniugi village, Novgorod diocese, on the site of the former Trinity monastery.
Saints Orentios, Pharnakios, Erotas, Phirmos, Phirminos, Kyriakos, and Longinus were brothers, who were known for their courage and served as soldiers in Thrace during the reign of Emperor Diocletian.
During a battle with the Scythians, Saint Orentios killed their fierce and intrepid leader, Mararon. He received many honors for this achievement, but then he was asked to participate in a sacrifice that was being offered to the idols in thanksgiving for his victory. The Christian hero absolutely refused to do this, declaring that he had defeated his foe by the power of Jesus Christ, whom he worshiped as the one true God. They did not punish him right away, because of his bravery, but he and his brothers were detained.
After some time, they were questioned. All seven declared, as with one mouth, that they would remain faithful to Christ until their last breath,
and that the Savior would judge them on the Last Day. After saying this, they were sentenced to exile in the Caucasus.
One after another, the seven brothers died on the journey from their hardships and suffering. but they endured their afflictions without complaint. Erotas was the first to depart this life; he perished at Parembol on June 22. Next, Orentios was thrown into the sea with a stone tied around his neck. Pharnakios reposed on July 3 at Kordila. Phirmos and Phirminos received their heavenly crowns on July 7 at Aspara on the eastern shores of the Black Sea. Kyriakos went to the Lord on July 14 at Ziganeia, and Longinus gave his soul into God's hands on July 28 while on board a ship. The storm-tossed vessel went aground at Pitinda (Pitsnda), and so the last holy martyr was buried there.
We pray to these holy martyrs to protect us from our enemies. In Greek usage these saints are commemorated on June 25.
Saint Athanasius Parios, the distinguished theologian and great teacher of the Greek nation, was born in the village of Kostos on the island of Paros around 1721—1722. His father, Apostolos Toulios, was from Siphnos, and his mother was a native of Paros.
The future saint was a leading member of the Kollyvades movement which began on Mount Athos in the middle of the eighteenth century. The movement derives its name from the koliva (boiled wheat) which is used during memorial services. Its proponents were Athonite monks who adhered strictly to holy Tradition, and were opposed to unwarranted innovations. They were in favor of the frequent reception of Holy Communion, and they practiced unceasing prayer of the heart. They insisted that memorial services should not be performed on Sundays, because that is the day of the Lord’s Resurrection. In the Orthodox Church Saturday is the usual day for the commemoration of the dead.
Saint Athanasius went to Mount Athos in 1752. There he was ordained to the holy priesthood by Saint Macarius of Corinth (April 17), but was forced to leave the Holy Mountain when some of the monks rose in opposition to the Kollyvades. The righteous one was unjustly slandered for his views on frequent Communion and for his opposition to memorial services on Sundays.
As the result of personal attacks and intrigues against him, Saint Athanasius was suspended from exercising his priestly office from 1776—1781, and was even accused of being a heretic. When the charges against him were later proven to be absurd and unfounded, his suspension was lifted, and he was restored to his former rank.
Saint Athanasius knew and influenced many of his fellow Kollyvades, such as Saint Macarius of Corinth, Saint Nikēphóros of Chios (May 1), Saint Arsenius of Paros (January 31), and Saint Νikόdēmos of the Holy Mountain (July 14). He taught Saint Nikēphóros, and he encouraged Saint Νikόdēmos to publish a collection of the writings of Saint Gregory Palamas (November 14). Unfortunately, his manuscript was lost before it could be printed.
After teaching at the Athonias Academy and in Thessalonica, Saint Athanasius journeyed to the island of Chios in 1788, where he taught in the gymnasium for twenty-five years, and also served as Director of schools. He was a leading educator and distinguished theologian who revived the art of eloquent speech on Chios by teaching logic, rhetoric, metaphysics, and theology. His TREATISE ON RHETORIC, an analysis of some of the orations of Demosthenes, was a most influential work.
Saint Athanasius wrote many other useful books and treatises on various topics such as A HANDBOOK OF APOLOGETICS, “The Great Blessing of Water,” “On the Second Sunday of Great Lent,” “The Kneeling Prayers on Pentecost,” “On the Holy Icons,” “On Memorial Services,” “On the New Martyrs,” “On the Angels and Divine Beauty,” as well as numerous letters dealing with diverse subjects. His most important book was the EPITOME, which deals with Orthodox dogma.
Saint Athanasius was also a prolific writer of saints’ Lives and of liturgical services in their honor. He wrote the lives of Saint Mark the New (June 5) and Saint Macarius of Corinth, among others. He also wrote the Preface for the NEW LEIMONARION (New Spiritual Meadow), a collection of saints’ lives and services begun by Saint Macarius, with additional material contributed by Saint Nikēphóros of Chios and by Saint Athanasius himself.
Saint Athanasius retired as Director of schools in 1812, and went to join Saint Nikēphóros at the Hermitage of Saint George at Resta, Chios where he spent his final days. He departed to the Lord on June 24, 1813 at the age of ninety.
Saint Athanasius was very zealous for the teachings of Christ and His Church, and patiently endured persecution and suffering during his life because of his beliefs. Since he was opposed to the so-called Age of Enlightenment and fought against the “progressive” spirit of his time, he was censured by some of his contemporaries. Although his detractors enjoyed a certain fame during their lifetime, they are all but forgotten today. On the other hand, Saint Athanasius has been glorified by God and was officially recognized as a saint of the Orthodox Church in 1995.
In Slavonic practice, Saint Barlaam is commemorated during the Proskomedia along with the venerable and God-bearing Fathers who shone forth in asceticism (sixth particle).
Saint Barlaam is also commemorated on November 6 and February 10.