Saint John the Forerunner, the Prophet and Baptist of the Lord

“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.”


Synaxis: January 7th

Akathist Hymn

Apolytikion: The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord’s testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner; for thou hast proved to be truly even more Venerable than the Prophets, since thou was granted to Baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed. Wherefore, having contested for the truth, thou didst rejoice to announce the good tidings even to those in Hades: that God hath appeared in the flesh, taking away the sin of the world and granting us great Mercy.

Kontakion: The Jordan accepted Your presence in the flesh and reversed its course in fear. John, fulfilling the Spiritual ministry, fell back in awe. The ranks of Angels, seeing You in the flesh, Baptized in the River, were amazed, and all who were in darkness were filled with light, praising You Who appeared and enlightened all.

Megalynarion: With your hand you Baptised, O Baptiser, leading Israel through the sea, of all the Prophets you showed to be the highest, wherefore we praise your Divine Grace.

Doxastikon: O Forerunner and incarnate Lamp of the Saviour, the offspring of a barren woman, and friend of Him Who was born of a Virgin, who leaped for joy to worship Him as a babe in the womb, and who Baptized Him in the waters of the Jordan, entreat Him, we pray you, O Prophet, that we might escape from the coming storms of this life.

Poem about Saint John, by Fr Pavlos Papadopoulos: Behind the Prophet, see the Ascetic. Behind the Baptist, see the Virgin. Behind the Great, see the Humble. Behind the Saint, see John. Behind every Saint of the Church, there is a whole life of struggles, efforts, tears. There is hidden a life of Prayer and Asceticism, simplicity and obscurity. It is not that which we know of Saint John the Baptist and the Forerunner of Our Lord. It is that which we do not know about him that contributes to making him Great before men and Saints. It is all that Our Triune God knows of him. This fascinates me about Saint John… that he is an incredible wild flower that adorns the world, and that the world does not know…

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Conception: September 23rd

Apolytikion: Rejoice, O thou barren one who hadst not borne until now; for lo, in all truth thou hast conceived the lamp of the Sun, and he shall send forth his light over all the Earth, which is afflicted with blindness. Dance, O Zacharias, and cry out with great boldness: The one to be born is the blest Prophet of God Most High.

Kontakion: Great Zacharias now doth rejoice with resplendence; Elizabeth his glorious yoke-mate exulteth; for she hath conceived Divine John the Forerunner worthily, whom the great Archangel had announced with rejoicing, whom, as it is meet, we men revere as a sacred initiate of Grace Divine.

Prophet Zacharias and Saint Elizabeth were married but did not have any children for many years. They Prayed to God to give them a child and with God’s Blessing Archangel Gabriel announced to them they will have a child, and they became the parents of Saint John the Forerunner.

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The Visitation of the Theotokos and Saint Elizabeth: March 30th

Gospel Reading

When Our Most Holy Mother of God was pregnant she went with Saint Joseph to visit her cousin Saint Elizabeth, who was also pregnant, and her husband Prophet Zacharias. The two babies in the wombs recognised each other, and thus began the Prophesying of Saint John, before he was born!

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Nativity: June 24th

Apolytikion: O Prophet and Forerunner of the presence of Christ, we who fervently honor you cannot worthily praise you. For by your revered and glorious birth the barrenness of your mother and the muteness of your father were unbound, and the Incarnation of the Son of God is proclaimed to the world.

Kontakion: She that once was barren doth today bring forth Christ’s Forerunner, John, the culmination and the crown of all the Prophets. For when he, in River Jordan, laid his hand on Him Whom the Prophets preached aforetime, he was revealed as God the Word’s fore-chosen Prophet, His mighty preacher, and His Forerunner in Grace.

Hymn: The Voice of the Word of Grace has come: The preacher of the Light of Light! He is born from the barren womb of Elizabeth. Rejoice, people; he comes, preparing the way of Salvation for us. He leaped in the womb and worshipped his Master: the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world, and grants us great Mercy.

Hymn: O all-praised John, and universal Apostle, the good news of Gabriel, and the root from the barren womb, and the most-beautiful adornment of the desert, and true friend of Christ the Bridegroom: entreat Him, that He might have mercy on our Souls.

Hymn: The great Forerunner shines forth today, from fruitless loins, coming forth from Elizabeth, he who is the Prophet greater than all the Prophets. There is none like him, nor will there come another after, for after the light of the lamp that is the Forerunner follows the surpassingly radiant Voice of the Logos, and the Bridegroom of the Bride, the Lord Who prepares a people for Himself, and cleanses them beforehand by the Spirit through the water. [John is] the root of Zacharias, and the beautiful fruit of the desert, the preacher of repentance, the cleansing of offences, he who preaches to those in Hades of the Resurrection from the dead, and who intercedes on behalf of our Souls.

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Luke 1: 76-77

And you, child, will be called the Prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of Salvation to His people.

Luke 1:63-79

And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, “What kind of child will this be?” And the hand of the Lord was with him. Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His Holy Prophets, who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His Holy Covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. And you, child, will be called the Prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of Salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender Mercy of our God, eith which the Dayspring from on High has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”


This beautiful Icon is of the Mother of God with her Son Our Lord Jesus Christ. To her right is Saint Elizabeth with Saint John the Baptist, and to her left is Saint Salome with Saint John the Beloved. These Holy Women were all first cousins because their mothers, Saint Anna, Sobea and Maria, were all sisters and daughters to the High Priest Matthas and his wife Maria.

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Below is an Icon of Saint John together with his cousin Christ, Our Most Holy Mother of God and Saint Joseph the Betrothed.

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Saint John grew up in the Desert because when King Herod was killing the Holy Innocents, all the baby boys in an attempt to kill the new born Baby Jesus, Saint Elizabeth fled to a rocky and desolate place with Saint John in her arms. When Saint Elizabeth saw the soldiers following her she cried out to the mountain: “O Mountain of God, receive a mother with her child!” and the rock opened and hid the mother and child. The soldiers killed Prophet Zacharias in the Temple when he refused to say where his child went, and forty days afterwards Saint Elizabeth reposed. Saint John was then led to the wilderness by an Angel where he grew up protected by God, he was one and a half years old.

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Saint John’s love for Christ led him to preach Repentance, confession, and a pure way of life. He lived at the River Jordan preaching “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2-3), and he Baptised his disciples, to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” (Mt 3:3).

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“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “​Behold! The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29).

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“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be Baptized by him.” (Mt 3:12).

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Holy Forerunner John the Baptist, grant me repentance through the Holy Spirit.


Beheading: August 29th

Gospel Reading

Apolytikion: The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord’s testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner; for thou hast proved to be truly even more Venerable than the Prophets, since thou was granted to Baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed. Wherefore, having contested for the truth, thou didst rejoice to announce the good tidings even to those in Hades: that God hath appeared in the flesh, taking away the sin of the world and granting us great Mercy.

Kontakion: The Glorious Beheading of the Forerunner was a certain Divine dispensation, that the coming of the Saviour might also be preached to those in Hades. Let Herodias lament, then, that she demanded a wicked murder; for she loved not the Law of God, nor eternal life, but one false and fleeting.

Hymn: O Forerunner of the Saviour, you censured the king that he might not work lawlessness, through the games of a lawless woman, but Herod fell upon you and cut off your head. Because of this, your name is praised from the rising of the sun until its setting. As one having boldness before the Lord, entreat ceaselessly that our Souls be saved.

Hymn: John, who outran Your Birth and Your Passion, came through a sword to the lowest parts of the Earth as Prophet and Messenger of Your entrance also there, crying as voice of the Word, you dead, highly exalt the Giver of life, you blind, the Giver of light, you prisoners, the Deliverer Christ.

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Saint John was the Forerunner of Christ on Earth, and he died before Him so he would be His forerunner in Hades too. The Beheading of Saint John occurred before the Crucifixion of Christ so Saint John could prepare all for the coming of Christ in Hades.


1st & 2nd Finding of his Venerable Head: February 24th

Apolytikion: The Forerunner’s Sacred head, having dawned forth from the Earth, doth send incorruption’s rays unto the faithful, whereby they find healings of their ills. From on high he gathereth the choirs of the Angels and on Earth he summoneth the whole race of mankind, that they with one voice might send up Glory to Christ our God.

Kontakion: Since we have obtained thy head as a most Sacred rose from out of the Earth, O Forerunner of Grace Divine, we receive sure healing in every hour, O Prophet of God the Lord; for again, now as formerly, thou preachest repentance unto all the world.

3rd Finding of his Venerable Head: May 25th

Apolytikion: Christ God hath revealed to us thy truly Venerable head as a Divine treasure that had been concealed in the Earth, O Prophet and Forerunner. Wherefore, as we gather on the Feast of its finding, with our hymns inspired of God, we praise Christ the Saviour, Who by thy mighty Prayers saveth us from every kind of harm.

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Below is an Icon of Christ with his beloved Saint Zacharias and Saint Elizabeth with their son Saint John the Baptist, together with Saint Joachim and Saint Anna, and their daughter Panagia.

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Saint John and Saint David of Evia

One evening, when Saint David of Evia was three years old, Saint John the Forerunner appeared to him and led him by the hand to his Church which was nearby. Saint John then went into his Icon and Saint David spent six days and nights in Prayer kneeling in front of the Holy Icon of Saint John. When his father finally found him, he could see the face of his son Saint David was shining with a Heavenly Light.

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Icons

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