The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

The End Of The Season

 

January 19, 2018



As I sit in my office to write this article, I realize that I have been blessed once more. In 2017 I got to write an article just before Christmas is celebrated in Western churches and now I get to write an article on the day the Christmas season ends in many Eastern churches. These twenty six days are almost a whole month.

In the Eastern churches which still use the Julian calendar, today is the Feast of Theophany. The feast commemorates the baptism of Jesus by John the Forerunner. John has been preaching, calling the people to repentance and telling everyone that he is only a voice crying out to prepare the way of the Lord. The Magi astronomers from the east are also commemorated on this day. But it was about two years before they arrived on the scene.

John was a distant cousin of the Lord. He was born before Jesus and he was imprisoned and executed before Jesus. Theologians often refer to him as the last of the Old Testament prophets. He apparently knew what his duty would be before his birth considering at the sound of Mary’s greeting to Elizabeth, he leapt in his mother’s womb. At some point in his life he seems to have joined an ascetical sect in Judaism called the Essene. He chose what we would consider a hard lifestyle. He wore animal skins for clothing and subsisted on a diet which consisted of locusts and wild honey. That’s a far cry from what we would be used to. I used to have a close friend whose idea of camping out meant an hotel suite in at least a three star facility.

Although Herod would be the one who gave the order for John’s execution, while John was alive Herod was actually afraid of him. And with good reason. Firstly, because the people recognized John as a prophet and therefore Herod could not afford to cause the people to rise up in protest. While visiting his brother Philip, Herod stole Philip’s wife, who apparently assumed that being a king in Jerusalem was certainly more important than just being a king in a remote region. So she and her daughter joined Herod’s household. But John kept reminding Herod that “it was not lawful for Herod to have her.” This certainly didn’t make Herod’s home life any easier. Herodias was certainly not pleased with John’s preaching about her unfaithfulness to Philip.

When the time came to celebrate Herod’s birthday, Salome, Herodias’ daughter, danced for him. Her performance pleased him so much he promised to give her anything she wanted even up to half of his kingdom. Thus came the time for Herodias to get her revenge. Salome was told to ask for John’s head on a platter. Herod was unable to renege on his promise in front of the people and so he was forced to deliver. And so, John died. Now it became Jesus’ time to deliver the message of repentance. The message that the “Kingdom of God is at hand.”

We may live in the 21st century but the message is the same. It is obvious in this day and age, as we look around our present day world, to realize how far we have drifted away from the word of God and how much we need Him and how much we need to repent and how much we must depend on His mercy. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

His Eminence, Metropolitan Kyril

Retired Primate of the

Holy American Orthodox Church

 

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