Thinking about Suffering

August 29 is the date one which we Orthodox commemorate the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner.   [A trivia note: It also is the date of King Herod’s birthday, but in any case the day is stained by by the King’s notorious decision to murder the Forerunner of the Lord as part of the king’s own birthday celebration.]  St. John is granted eternal memory in the Scriptures and festal Tradition of the Church while Herod is remembered only for murdering a great man.  One sign of the significance of St. John the Baptist in the early church is that he is mentioned in all four gospels.

The hymn for this feast notes that St. John joyously suffered for the truth:

The memory of the righteous is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord’s testimony is sufficient for you, O Forerunner. You were shown in truth to be the most honorable of the prophets, for you were deemed worthy to baptize in the streams of the Jordan Him whom they foretold.  Therefore, having suffered for the truth with joy, you proclaimed to those in hell God who appeared in the flesh, who takes away the sin of the world, and grants us great mercy.

In honor of the St. John, as we commemorate his death, here is a poem from Scott Cairns.

Come, together we will press

to enter the camel’s eye

that narrowest of gates.

Observe the trees. Just as they

must endure the winter’s storms

before they can bear fruit, so it is

with us. This troubled age is our own

destructive storm. Enduring

its trials and temptations, we obtain

our inheritance, our flowering, this new

fruitfulness, and also enter heaven’s kingdom.

(Love’s Immensity, p. 42-43)