St. John the Baptist

John the baptist, whom the Archangel Gabriel and his father Zachariah prophesied, is one who served God from the womb, who was set apart from this world and its trappings, a disciple who was granted the honor of baptizing our Lord; a teacher, martyr, ascetic, prophet and righteous saint.

The sage proclaims his greatness by saying ‹‹… ዮሐንስ ከማከ ሶበ ፈተዉ ወጽሕቁ፤ እሳተነዳዴ ኢተክህሎሙ ያጥምቁ፤ ራጉኤል በትጋሁ ወኢዮብ በጽድቁ፤ … ዮሐንስ ሆይ! ራጉኤል በትጋቱ፣ ኢዮብምበጽድቁ ቢመኙም ኾነ ቢጨነቁ እንደ አንተ የሚነድ እሳትን (መለኮትን) ሊያጠምቁ አልተቻላቸውም›› ሲል ታላቅነቱን መስክሮለታል (መልክአ ዮሐንስ መጥምቅ፣ ለአዕይንቲከ) indicating none from the prophets, priests, disciples and even angels were fit for this honor.

The name John means “Grace of God”. Of him, the holy gospel says he is “joy and delight”, for his parents have rejoiced because of his birth (Luke 1:14). The priest Zachariah and his wife St. Elizabeth were righteous people living without blame in the eyes of people and the Lord as described in Luke chapter 1. They didn’t have a child for St. Elizabeth was not able to conceive. They supplicated God daily for a child.

The priest Zachariah was incensing in the temple when an angel of God appeared to him on the right side of the alter and told him “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.” (Luke 1:13 – 16)

Zachariah the priest responded, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” And the angel replied “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens” (Luke 1:18 – 19)

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.  When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home.  After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.  “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (Luke 1:21 – 25)

And when her due date drew near, when only 6 months remained for the old testament chapter to close and the incarnation of our Lord to be upon us, St. John the baptist was born Sene 30. His relatives wanted to call the babe Zachariah after his father but his mother said he shall be called John.

Zachariah the priest, who was mute because he didn’t accept the good tiding of the archangel, spoke again when he wrote down that his name shall be John. Filled with the Holy Spirit he prophesied, “… And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” foretelling that St John would be a prophet and baptist and would pave the way for our Lord’s ministry. (Luke 1:57 – 79)

Sene 30 his birthday, Meskerem 1 the day he received blessings from the Lord, Meskerem 2 the day he was martyred, Tir 11 the day he baptized our Lord, Yekatit 30 the day his head was found, Myazya 15 the day his head rested, Sene 2 the day his remains were moved are major feast days that are celebrated in our church (he book of Acts of St. John the Baptist).

Source: Synaxarium, Commentary on Luke