29 August 2009

The Martyrdom of St. John, the Baptist

Today our Synod commemorates the beheading of St. John the Baptist. From the Treasury:

"From the perspective of the world, it was an ignominious end to John the Baptist's life. Yet it was in fact a noble participation in the Cross of Christ, which was John's greatest glory of all... He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and also the herald of the New Testament... And in the footsteps of the prophets who had gone before him - in anticipation of Christ whose way he prepared - this servant of the Lord manifested the cross by the witness of his death." (p. 670)

The writing for the day was from Dr. Luther: "He allows his prophets and apostles to be expelled and murdered... He allows HIs Christians to suffer want, trouble, and misfortune in the world. He acts as He did in the days of His flesh, when John the Baptist had to lose his head for the sake of a desperate harlot, while He, the Savior and Helper, said nothing about it, departed thence in a ship and withdrew into the solitude of the wilderness... Hence the prophet Isaiah correctly says of God: 'Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself...' For in the kingdom of faith God wants to be small, but in the future kingdom of sight He will not be small but great. Then He will show that He saw the misery of His people and heard their crying and had a will that inclined to help them..."

In today's collect we pray: "You gave Your servant John the Baptist to be the forerunner of Your Son, Jesus Christ, both in his preaching of repentance and in his innocent death. Grant that we...may daily repent of our sins, patiently suffer for the sake of the truth, and fearlessly bear witness to His victory over death..."


Chris said...

Is there any particular reason why Lutherans don't call this the "behaeading of St. John the Baptist"? Is that just too gory?

William Weedon said...

I suspect because the crucial fact is not the how, but the that, of the martyrdom.

William Weedon said...

Still, I would observe that in the Magdeburg Book, the title of the feast was the "beheading" of St. John the Baptist.