St. John the Baptist – St. John’s Day, one of the feasts dedicated to the saint and prophet who announced the arrival of the Savior and baptized him on the Jordan River, is celebrated today in all temples of the Serbian Orthodox Church and in Orthodox homes as one of the most common Serbian “slava” (Serbian Orthodox tradition of the veneration and observance of the family’s patron saint. Every Serbian family has their own patron saint that they celebrate on the feast day).
According to legend, many thought that John was the promised Messiah, but when he recognized Jesus when he listened to his first public sermons, he said, “It is the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”
In the Church, the saint is also known as John the Forerunner, and his feast is one of the greatest prophetic feasts, for St. John, the closest follower and close relative of Jesus Christ is bound by the beginning of the Savior’s mission and the beginning of the Christian sermon.
This feast is celebrated the day after Epiphany, as a remembrance of the Baptism of Jesus and the role of a saint preparing the people for a new faith.
“I baptize you with water, but the one who follows me is stronger than I am … He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” are the words of St. John, who baptized the people in the Jordan River and called for repentance.
On Orthodox icons, St. John is most often presented with a cross in his left hand and the inscription – “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
From a young age, he was devoted to the faith and as a defender of public morality, he opposed the debauchery of Roman society, which in his time peaked.
St. John also publicly condemned Emperor Herod Antipas, who had miscarried his wife to his brother Philip. According to legend, the Empress Herodias persuaded her daughter Salomah to ask Herod’s head for John.
Enthralled by Solomon’s play, Herod ordered the execution of John the Baptist.
This event is dedicated to a special feast known as the Incision of the Head of St. John the Baptist, and the icons depict a saint holding his severed head in his right hand.
This holiday is related, as St. Luke the Evangelist noted, to the event of the transfer of the saint’s hand to Antioch from Sevastia, where he was executed.
The right hand of St. John, who baptized Christ, has always been kept as the greatest holy place and is now in the Cetinje monastery.
St. John is a model of honesty and justice, and the custom of twinning “by God and St. John” is also respected in Serbian Orthodoxy.