SUNDAY, AUGUST 29: Forget about using plates or knives for meals today if you’re a strict Orthodox Christian, because many will take such measures to remember the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. This martyr is believed a prophet in Christianity—Eastern and Western—as well as in other world faiths such as Islam and Baha’i. However, it is only the Christian sects that recognize John’s beheading today; specifically, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic members and devotees of the Church of England. (Click here for a visual representation of John’s death, as depicted by artists through the centuries.)
The death sentence of John the Baptist was under unusual circumstances, and only happened when infidelity mixed with a drunken promise. (Wikipedia has details.) According to biblical accounts, John publicly chastised King Herod Antipas for divorcing his wife and unlawfully taking his brother’s wife and, angered, Herod imprisoned St. John. On Herod’s birthday, his brother’s wife’s daughter danced for Herod, and a drunken Herod promised the daughter anything she wanted. Herod’s brother’s wife, likely shamed by John’s scolding, instructed her daughter to ask for John’s head on a platter. Although unhappy about her request, Herod obliged.
The ancient burial place of John the Baptist was at Sebastia, but his bones have been moved several times. (Also of note is that his head has still not been officially located.) Last month, however, archaeologists found what they believe to be more bones of John the Baptist in Bulgaria—and among these bones are a skull fragment and a tooth, according to the Wall Street Journal. In a 4th-century monastery on St. Ivan Island, just off of Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, archaeologists unearthed the proposed relics in a sealed reliquary, buried next to an urn inscribed with St. John’s name and birth date. It’s reported that tens of millions of dollars have already been set aside to prepare accommodations for the expected influx of visitors.
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
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