The Conception of St John the Baptist
1. The Conception of St John the Baptist.
On this day are celebrated God’s mercy, His wondrous act and His wisdom: His mercy towards the devout and righteous parents of St John, the aged Zacharias and Elisabeth, who had all their lives begged a child of God; the wonder of the conception of John in Elisabeth’s more-than-aged womb; and the wisdom of the dispensation of man’s salvation. For John, God had a specially great plan: that he should be a prophet and the forerunner of Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the world. Through His angels, God revealed the birth of Isaac to the childless Sarah, and of Samson to the childless Manoah and his wife, and of John the Baptist to the childless Zacharias and Elisabeth. Through His angels, God revealed the birth of those for whom He had a special plan. How could children be born of aged parents? If someone is curious to find out, let him not ask men, for men do not know, nor does natural law (it being beyond natural law), but let him turn his gaze to the power of almighty God, who made the whole world from nothing and who, for the creation of Adam, the first man, used no parents, either young or old. Instead of being curious, let us thank God that He often reveals to us His power and mercy and wisdom beyond the natural law, by which we would otherwise be fettered and, without these special wonders of God, would fall into despair and forgetfulness of Him.
2. The Holy Martyr Iraida.
She is sometimes called Ra?s or Raida. A maiden from an Egyptian town called Batan, she was therefore probably an Egyptian. Iraida went out one day to draw water from a well near the sea, and saw a ship laden with bound Christians: priests, deacons, monks, women and maidens. Enquiring, she learned that pagan torturers were taking all this crowd to torture and death for the name of Christ the Lord. In the heart of the young Iraida, the desire flared up to suffer for the Lord. She left her pots by the well, went onto the ship and confessed that she was a Christian. She was immediately bound and taken with the others t the Egyptian town of Antinopolis. After divers tortures, Iraida was the first to be beheaded, followed by the others. She suffered with honour and was glorified at the beginning of the fourth century.
3. The Holy New Martyr Nicolas Pantopoles (The Grocer).
He suffered for the Christian faith as a young man at the hands of the Turks in Constantinople in 1672; his father, a grocer, having moved there from Thessaly. He took the name of his father’s trade (in Greek, pantopoles). After great pressure to become a Turk, and torture because he refused, he was beheaded and entered into the Kingdom of God. His relics are preserved in the monastery of Xeropotamou on the Holy Mountain.
4. The Holy New Martyr John.
Born in a place called Konitsa in Albania, he was a Moslem of Moslem parents. Later, seeing the wonderful power of the Christian faith in various places and events, he was baptised. He was arrested for this and brought before the Turkish judge. Tortured for the Christian faith in Aetolia and beheaded in 1814, he cried out at the time of his death: ‘Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom!’