John the Baptist- The Forerunner
Not by mere words, but by their life and death, do the righteous bear witness to the truth of God that they proclaim. The loud words and the most magnificent speech will remain idle talk if there is no heartfelt faith if the speaker is not ready to suffer and even to die for the triumph approved by doctrine. The blood of Christian martyrs was and still is the most eloquent message of God’s truth. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” Tertullian said.
At the time of the Savior’s coming, ancient Israel had not heard the prophetic word for several centuries. And the common people, longing for purity and Holiness, fell in love with their reprover — Saint John the Baptist, because they felt the Saviour of his fiery call to the truth of God. Only those who were dead to the Kingdom of God — the hypocritical false-righteous Pharisees and the depraved family of the Galilean King Herod Antipas-hated the Baptist.
This happened when Herod saw the brazenly teasing beauty of Herodias, the wife of his own brother Philip. The rotten blood of the king of Galilee boiled up, for the sake of this woman, he cast out his lawful wife, with whom he had lived for many years, rapaciously defiled the fraternal bed, entered into an incestuous “marriage” with a libertine — “not to the flesh alone, but to lust alone.” The Galileans saw this egregious crime and remained silent, the weak for fear of the king’s wrath, the nobles for complaisance to the ruler. And in this silence, which covers the Royal debauchery, the voice of St. John the Baptist, addressed to Herod, thundered threateningly: It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife (Mark 6: 18).
Herod showed his goodwill to Saint John in every possible way: he did many things and listened to him with pleasure. St. John understood: Herod will kill him, and his saving message of repentance will be interrupted, and he will not be able to live to see the triumph of the Messiah foreshadowed by him. But, knowing all this, the Baptist persisted in denouncing the king’s depravity.
Herodias was waiting for the right moment to incite her partner to murder Saint John. Herod’s feast was” regally ” furnished with a debauch of the flesh, where the Galilean nobles indulged in gluttony and drunkenness. Just as their minds were clouded by a drunken haze, they saw an unexpected sight: a young girl entered and began to dance. It was Salome, the daughter of Herodias.
According to the word of the Holy fathers, Salome with her dance “eclipsed all the harlots”. Dancing Salome trampled underfoot ancient pious customs, a shameless member of the Royal family defied the chaste precepts of their ancestors. The daughter of Herodias danced and pleased Herod and those who were reclining with him. The king said to the maiden, ” ask me what you want, and I will give it to you.” And Herodias advised her daughter: Ask for the head of John the Baptist(Mark 6: 24).
On this day, the Church has established a strict fast to remind us: not to earthly amusements and feasts is the all-Loving Lord calling us, but to the happiest and never-ending supper in His Kingdom. On this always strict fast day, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia, an Orthodox sobriety day has been established.