Beheading of John the Baptist

John the Baptist had admonished Herod for divorcing his wife, Phasaelis, and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. 

Herod was an important political figure in Judea, a part of the Roman Empire. 

On Herod's birthday, Salome, the daughter of Herodias, danced before


the king and his guests. Herod was drunk and so impressed with her dancing that he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. Salome asked Herodias what to request.  Herodias said Salome should ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

Herod was shocked by the request, but could not go back on his word and had John executed in the prison.  Later there was a military disaster when Aretas, Herod's first father-in-law (Phasaelis' father), conqured Herod.  Many people believed that was God's punishment for Herod's unrighteous behavior.

The feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist is one of the oldest feasts, if not the oldest introduced into both the Eastern and Western liturgies to honor a saint.  This is always a day of strict fasting. In some Orthodox cultures pious people will not eat food from a flat plate, use a knife, or eat food that is round in shape on this day.

The Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Church, Church of England, Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate this feast on 29th August.  The Russian, Macedonian and Serbian Orthodox Churches use the Julian Calendar, and they celebrate the feast on the date which is equal to 11th September in the Gregorian Calendar.

The Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates this feast on Saturday of Easter Week.  The Syriac Orthodox, Indian Orthodox, and Syro-Malankara Catholic Churches celebrate the feast on 7th January.

On 29th August 2012, during a televised public audience at the summer palace of Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI said that the re-discovery of Saint John the Baptist's fragmented head is evidence of St John's sanctity dating back to the Apostolic Age. This day now also commemorates the transfer of this relic, which is now enshrined in the Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite in Rome.

Last modified on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 07:44

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