Sunday, January 7, 2018

Met Georges Khodr: John the Forerunner

Arabic original here.

John the Forerunner

On the day after the Feast of Theophany, we celebrate the Synaxis of Saint John the Baptist. John's personality appears to us as enchanting and vexing at the same time. A man at the ultimate point of humility, in order to reveal Christ to Israel. He disappeared and wanted to disappear, as he regarded his mission as having been completed with the coming of the great, hoped-for one. Therefore his role ended after he baptized Jesus in water and was imprisoned on account of the truth he spoke to Herod.

We might ask why he was able to be humble, how it was possible for him to live this new life, and how he could confront the unjust king and to be brought by his resistance to the point of martyrdom. The secret of this lies in the fact that he renounced everything people possess and everything people desire. He lived alone in the desert to show that man's solitude is with God and his encounter is with the truth. This is perfected in a life of poverty without food or shelter. John foraged locusts and wild honey.

Our eating much means that we fear death. Our not eating means that we do not fear death. We think that food protects us against the danger of death. But John sought solitude until the end, to the point of hunger. He renounced all the glories that surround us. He renounced the priesthood, though his father was a priest and priesthood was his right. At that time, priesthood meant a certain amount of glory. He renounced the glory that he could attain by being close to King Herod, who gladly listened to him. Since he renounced the glory of the royal palace, he rebuked the king. He did not conceal his conscience on account of the friendship that bound him to the king.

John believed that God has rights over people and that he had to remind everyone of God's right over them and that they are all dust. But someone who treats such issues puts himself at risk and John put himself at risk when he said to his friend the king, "It is not permissible for you to take your brother's wife." These words did not amuse the adulterous king, even though he was pleased by other things that John said.

Then came that wild party. The king invited the country's grandees and ate and drank with them until he got drunk and swore to give the dancing-girl anything she wanted, even half his kingdom. She went to her mother, who asked for John's head on a platter. After this, his head was a light to the world.

This great corpse, which we celebrate on August 29, was a preparation for the death of the Savior. John was a man who lived before Jesus, but like a savior. Therefore the Holy Church made a feast for him on the day after the Theophany of the Lord Jesus, as he also appeared in light.

No comments: