The Real Deal on St. John the Baptist & the Fate of the Girl Who Danced for His Head

Today, on the feast of the beheading of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist, I wanted to share with you some things about him that I find absolutely amazing.   I posted some of this information several years back but wanted to mention it again because it is so relevant and too commonly unknown among the faithful.

Years ago, when Ace was about three, he kept tugging on my sleeve in church and asking if St. John the Baptist was an angel.  I kept telling him no and quietly hushed him. Then he asked,

“Well then why does he have wings in that icon?”

St. John the Forerunner

I looked up at the icon I’d venerated a million times as if seeing his wings for the first time.  Why does he have wings?  Isn’t it sad how we become so accustomed to the things around us that at some point we stop really seeing them?  They sort of just blend into the scenery.

Ace was still looking at me like, “Well….” So I told him I’d ask the priest after church.

I didn’t have a chance to talk to him after Liturgy so I asked the next best person.  Our Gerondissa.  And I was amazed by what she said!

Ok, so, before Lucifer fell he was the head archangel.  When he and his army were banished to Hades, that entire rank was left empty.  (This was also when the other Angels and Archangels were shaking with fear at what was happening-seeing their fellow angels being banished to hell by God.  Archangel Michael finally stood up straight and shouted, “Stand aright!  Stand with the Fear of God!” –which are the same words we hear during every Divine Liturgy.  At this point God stopped the falling angels who Christ tells us in Luke 10:18, “fell like lightning from heaven.”  This is when the aerial toll booths were created which many of our saints write about in depth but that’s a discussion for a later time.

Now, we all know that St. John was Christ’s forerunner on Earth but what I didn’t know at that time was he was also his forerunner in hell.  When St. John was beheaded, he went to hell like all before him did, righteous or not (until Christ’s Resurrection bridged heaven and earth) and while he was there he preached the message of repentance. Just like he did on earth.  Wow.  That just floors me.  Of course, it makes total sense but I just never knew.  I never knew.   In return for this, Christ will establish him as the head archangel after His second glorious coming.

Non-Orthodox bash our holy traditions but oh my goodness, they don’t know what they’re missing by not delving in to the countless other writings of the saints that are not included in the Bible.  St. John says it in the last verse of his gospel, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did.  Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”  {John 21:25}  This tells us that there is more.  Common sense tells us that there is more.  Christ couldn’t have come and endured what He endured just to ascend to the Father and tell the Apostles, “Okay, it’s up to you now.  Do what you think is best.”  No way!  Those 40 days that He spent with them on earth before His Ascension were filled with teachings and laws and instructions!  He helped them understand how the Old Testament laws would play a role in the new law He created.  Jesus didn’t just stay an extra 40 days on earth to hang out!  A priest once told me that in the Orthodox Church we stand on two feet-the Holy Bible and Holy Tradition.  You cannot walk properly without them both.

OFF TOPIC:  Here’s something else you might find interesting, everyone associates St. John with eating locusts and honey for 40 days while living in the wildnerness.  Do you know that locusts are not actually grasshopper locusts?  They were actually a type of green that grew in the region where he was.  When the Bible was translated, unfortunately there were a whoooole lot of mistranslations since the languages they were originally written in were so deep and rich.  For example, in the Greek language there are 4 or 5 different ways to say love, each describing a particular form of the emotion.  Whereas in English, it’s just one word.

I also asked Gerondissa what would happen to the rank of angels that were banished along with Lucifer and she told me that monastics who earn the great schema on earth and earn their salvation will fill that rank.  When I spoke to my spiritual father about this at a later time, he also added that the Mother of God herself will lead these saved monastics into the Kingdom of Heaven after the Judgement while angels will escort the rest of the saved.

I just thought that was so incredible! And what a great reminder of how we can learn from our children every single day.  At times like this Mark 10:14 always comes to mind. When Jesus said,  “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” 

Another thing that I thought was really interesting was the fate of Herod, Herodias and Salome.  The following was taken from the ROCOR site Orthodox England and can be read in it’s entirety here.

“As we have heard, it was at Herod’s birthday-party, that Herod, excited by his daughter’s dancing, gave way to his wife’s demand to behead St John. This is a reason why we Orthodox do not make a great fuss of our birthdays, but rather of our saints’ days. For this episode with Herod is the only time in the New Testament that we hear of a birthday, and it caused a great crime to be committed.

The punishment of Herod was terrible. Firstly, his kingdom was invaded by the Arab Prince Aretas, who was all too keen to avenge his daughter’s honour. Then Herod was exiled with all his family by the angry Romans. Exiled by them to Lerida in Spain, it was here one terrible winter that his daughter Salome fell through a hole in the ice while crossing a frozen river. As she sank into the river, the ice froze around her neck. Struggling to free herself, she moved her legs, as though dancing. At that moment, however, jagged edges of ice cut through her neck and she was beheaded. Her sinful and unrepentant body disappeared forever beneath the ice. Eyewitnesses saw her decapitated head on the ice, picked it up and took it to Herod – on a platter. As regards Herod and Herodias, they too disappeared, for they fell into a crevasse which opened up during an earthquake in Lerida. Thus, they disappeared from history, without obeying St John’s call to repentance, swallowed by the fires beneath the earth. But as regards St John who called and still calls to repentance – his name lives on forever.”

Many years to those of you who are celebrating your nameday today! May St. John intercede for us today and always!

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