Dienstag, 7. Januar 2014

Synaxis of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist John

Testifying: Saint John 1:29-34, especially vs. 34: “I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” Hebrew prophets such as Isaiah declared the word of God to His ancient people, thus enabling Israel to witness faithfully among the community of nations. When “all the nations are gathered together” (Is 43:9), God declares to Israel, “You are My witnesses . . . and My servant whom I chose, that you may know and believe, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no other God, nor shall there be after Me” (vs. 10).
 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gn 22:18), God promises to the Patriarch Abraham. With this promise, Israel is given to understand that “all the ends of the earth shall remember and shall turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him” (Ps 21:27). However, Israel does not testify to the nations but rather withdraws into herself, satisfied to be God’s chosen.
Christ our God now gives the Church the mission of testifying to Him. He commissions the new apostolic community to “make disciples of all the nations” (Mt 28:19). The great model in the Gospels for such testimony is the Forerunner John. He reveals how to prepare the peoples of earth to receive the Savior and Lord of all.
Saint John announces that the Messiah is present among the people, although He is still unrecognized: “There stands One among you whom you do not know” (Jn 1:26). In like fashion the Church is to testify to the Savior’s presence among the earth’s peoples. Our worship proclaims the reality of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (vs. 29). We are to exhibit His presence in our lives so that others will awaken and turn to Him.
The Church has two structures for testifying: parish churches and monastic communities. How great is the need for active, worshiping communities in every city and town! Local congregations, however, are only one voice of evangelical outreach. They need the witness and support of the monasteries. As an ascetic, Saint John follows a solitary life in the desert in order to testify to Christ. He sends his disciples to follow the Lord Jesus in the world (vss. 37-39).
The Forerunner testifies that the Lord Jesus is God’s gift to the world: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (vs. 29). Yet even today Christ’s life-giving and healing mysteries are little known – witness the burgeoning today of the mental health profession. Let us strive to “give to the Lord the glory due His name” (1 Ch 16:29) as our living testimony of Him, and let a Christ-centered life “tell of all [His] wondrous works” (Ps 25:7).
Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos observes how desperately “contemporary man, tired and discouraged by the various problems which torment him, is looking for rest and refreshment . . . He is seeking a cure for his soul. . . . Orthodoxy . . . [aims to] heal man and guide him to God” (Orthodox Psychotherapy, p. 15).
Saint John, prophet of the desert, calls us to answer this desperate need by our living, prayerful, ascetic witness to the healing power of the Orthodox faith. As Archimandrite Sophrony says, “It is not enough to be convinced in one’s mind of the divinity of Christ. . . . We must make the maximum effort to live according to His word . . . we must follow up with a prolonged prayer of repentance” (On Prayer, p. 46).
Let us testify to the Savior in our attitudes, words, and deeds. Our world does not need theories concerning Christ, but rather the testimony of lives that reveal the Lord. There is hunger for the God whom Saint John describes: “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me’” (vs. 30).

O Blessed Forerunner, thou didst show us the Lamb that taketh away the sin of the world. Implore thou Him that we also may manifest Him Whosanctifies the true nature of man.

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