"After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways .... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church." St. Philaret of NY 1985

Baptist of the Lord, John

St. John the Baptist
from the August 2013 issue of The Shepherd

OF  NEW  YORK, + 1985 
IN THE NAME of the Father 
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 
 Today, when the Church glorifies a great righteous man - 
the honourable, glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the 
Lord, John, one greater than whom, as says the Saviour of the 
world Himself, there has not risen among those born of women 
(Matt. 11:11) - on this day, I want to turn your attention to one 
event in the life of the Saviour which immediately concerns Saint 
John the Baptist. 
 The Holy Gospel records that John, when he was in chains 
in prison, sent his disciples to the Saviour, so that in his behalf 
they might put a question to the Saviour: Art Thou he that should 
come, or look we for another?” (Matt. 11:3), that is “Are you that 
One, Who must come (meaning, of course, the Messiah, the Sav- 
iour of the world), or must we await someone else that is not you?’ 
 This question voiced by his disciples in the name of their 
holy teacher might well arouse thoughts in a man that John, who 
had in his time borne witness with conviction to the Divine worthi- 
ness of the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sins of the world, 
suddenly had doubts when in prison. One  theologians straightfor- 
wardly makes the supposition that John had a strong temptation 
in prison, that when his prophetic ministry came before him, he 
was, as it were, afflicted by the doubt: maybe this was not the Mes- 
siah, and all that I have done was done in vain. Actually, this might 
indeed appear to be the meaning of such a question. 
 But such an explanation in no way accords with what the 
Saviour Himself said after the disciples of John had departed.  
When they put their question to Him, the Gospel says that the 
Lord told them: Go and shew John again those things which ye 
do hear and see. Speak of the miracles, says the Saviour, the lep- 
ers are cleansed, the poor have the Gospel preached unto them, 
the dead are raised up (Matt. 11:4-5).  They were to announce all 
these miracles to their teacher.  Indicating that this instruction 
was not directed at John himself, after this the Lord said to those 
who were around Him, What went ye out into the wilderness to 
see? A reed shaken with the wind? (Matt. 11:7).  No answer was 
necessary.  The mighty Prophet and Forerunner of the Lord was, 
in his firmness and steadfastness, so unlike a reed shaken in the 
wind, that no answer was necessary, - it was understood without 
question. But what went ye out for to see? The Lord asks again. A 
man clothed in soft raiment?  (That is someone who lives in the 
normal way, like the majority).  No, such are to be found in royal 
apartments, says the Lord. And again as before, no reply was nec- 
essary.  Everyone understood, and they knew John. 
 And then, at last, the Lord says: What went ye out for to 
see? A Prophet?  Yea, I say unto you, and more than a Prophet 
(Matt. 11:9).  Then the Lord says he is the Voice of one crying in 
the wilderness, of whom the prophets of old had spoken (See Mark 
1:3-4, Luke 7:27, Mal. 3:1).  And then He says: Among them that 
are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the 
Baptist (Matt. 11:11).  These words, with which the Lord confirmed 
both the authority and spiritual excellence of His Forerunner, who 
had formerly borne witness concerning Him, wholly refute the 
explanation which I have just mentioned, that John in some way 
doubted.  With exactness the Lord indicates his firmness, stead- 
fastness and [spiritual] height.  As John Chrysostom so subtly and 
profoundly notes in his exegesis of the Holy Gospel, the question 
was posed not for John’s sake, but for the sake of his disciples.  
 That wise director, Saint John the Baptist saw that his dis- 
ciples would doubt and be shaken.  Furthermore, the Holy Gospel 
gives us cause to believe with undoubting confidence that they had 
their own relationship with their teacher, one of zeal.  Formerly 
John had been an authority from on high, - then his preaching 
had thundered forth, then the Voice of one crying in the wilder- 
ness had thundered over the Jordan waters.  Subsequently, as the 
Evangelist John reports, there came the moment when the disci- 
ples of John came to him and said unto their teacher John:  Rabbi, 
He that was with thee, ... to Whom thou barest witness, behold the 
Same baptizeth, and all men come to Him (John 3:26).  Here we 
have a clear indication of their sincere, but irrational, zeal for the 
reputation of their own teacher. 
 And so, seeing all this in his disciples, John sent them to the 
Saviour so that they might be convinced through their own eyes 
Who it was before them, for the works which the Saviour did, - as 
He himself said, - bore witness concerning Him (see John 5:36). 
 In the instance reported above we see how the Lord, in His 
turn, bore witness to His Baptizer, as the greatest born of women. 
 Now you and I are celebrating the memory of the holy John, 
the Forerunner.  When the feast of the Beheading of John the Fore- 
runner falls, in the prokeimenon, which is a fundamental verse 
expressing the main import of the feast, the Church cries out: The 
righteous man shall be glad in the Lord, and shall hope in Him 
(Ps. 63:11).  This refers directly to John the Forerunner, both when 
he was yet in prison and when he was beheaded.  
 It means that John did not entertain any doubts, but that 
he, as a righteous man, rejoiced in his Lord even when he was sud- 
denly subjected to that violent death imposed upon him by King 
Herod, who had witlessly sworn away unto the half of his kingdom 
(Mark 6:23). Let us remember this. 
 Such steadfastness was St John’s everywhere, always, and in 
everything! And it is this very example of steadfastness that should 
especially nowadays encourage believing people. How many temp- 
tations there are nowadays!  Temptations to sin seed themselves 
around everywhere, but one can repent of sin; and there are other 
temptations: spiritual deceptions; spiritual fakery; Churches that 
are not true, and others, which nowadays are spread everywhere 
- this is the most dreadful thing. And it is exactly with this that a 
person must be steadfast and manly, and not let go of standing in 
the truth. 
 Thanks be to God that you and I belong to that Church, 
which sacredly maintains the Orthodox precepts and traditions 
and the whole structure of the life that Orthodox people should 
have. Let us thank God for this. 
 How many people are there nowadays who sincerely seek 
the truth, but, nonetheless, are led astray and fall, following paths 
that are not right.  We must grieve for them and pray for them, 
and not judge them as certain people do nowadays.  Many are the 
people who seek salvation, but the enemy beats them down with 
his persuasions and nudges them along a wrong path, whereon 
they think they see the True Church but where in reality there is 
only something counterfeit and false. 
 Of old the Lord said to His faithful one (the Angel of the 
Church of Philadelphia): Hold that fast which thou hast (Rev. 
3:11).  And, through His seer of mysteries, the Lord addressed us 
with this word: Hold that fast which thou hast.* 
 Give thanks to the Lord that you belong to the True Church, 
for this gift of His mercy is more precious than all else.  And just as 
He is always faithful to His promises, so remain until the very end 
faithful unto Him, as He says in that same [Book of] Revelation: Be 
thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life (Rev. 
2:1).  Amen.  
 * These same words were found on the day on which St Philaret re- 
posed, 8th/21st November, the feast of the Angelic Powers of Heaven, on a pa- 
per still in his typewriter, when his death was discovered.  They are his last 
testament to us.