Monday, August 29, 2016
Feast of the Decollation of St. John the Baptist
Salome with the head of St. John the Baptist by Caravaggio.
Today is the feast of the beheading -- or decollation -- of St. John the Baptist. Back in June we celebrated his birth, and today we mark his unjust execution by order of Herod.
The Scriptures recount his demise in this way:
"Mark 6:17 Herod himself had sent and arrested John and put him in prison, in chains, for love of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married; 18 because John had told Herod, It is wrong for thee to take thy brother’s wife. 19 Herodias was always plotting against him, and would willingly have murdered him, but could not, 20 because Herod was afraid of John, recognizing him for an upright and holy man; so that he kept him carefully, and followed his advice in many things, and was glad to listen to him. 21 And now came a fitting occasion, upon which Herod gave a birthday feast to his lords and officers, and to the chief men of Galilee. 22 Herodias’ own daughter came in and danced, and gave such pleasure to Herod and his guests that the king said to the girl, Ask me for whatever thou wilt, and thou shalt have it; 23 he even bound himself by an oath, I will grant whatever request thou makest, though it were a half of my kingdom. 24 Thereupon she went out and said to her mother, What shall I ask for? And she answered, The head of John the Baptist. 25 With that, she hastened into the king’s presence and made her request; My will is, she said, that thou shouldst give me the head of John the Baptist; give it me now, on a dish. 26 And the king was full of remorse, but out of respect to his oath and to those who sat with him at table, he would not disappoint her. 27 So he sent one of his guard with orders that the head should be brought on a dish. 28 This soldier cut off his head in the prison, and brought it on a dish, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When John’s disciples heard of it, they came and carried off his body, and laid it in a tomb."
St. John the Baptist is, as it were, the last character of the Old Testament, the final prophet, who, having "made straight the paths of the Lord" stepped aside in humility before his cousin, and Saviour. From St. John we learn not only austerity and devotion to God, but humility and obedience. His resolve in teaching the truth is, ultimately, a contributing factor to his execution by Herod.
For more on St. John the Baptist, be sure to check out:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. John the Baptist
Catholic Saints Info: St. John the Baptist
Left, San Silvestro in Capite, Roma, Italia. Right, the Relic.
[Left: "Chiesa di San Silvestro in Capite Roma" by LPLT - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons]
The site of his head -- though not without some dispute -- is the Roman Church of San Silvestro in Capite, which happens also to be the national Church of Great Britain in Rome. You can view their official website here [N.B., this site was not working as of last check]: San Silvestro in Capite, Roma