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SERMON FOR THE BEHEADING OF ST JOHN THE BAPTIST
fr_basil
SERMON FOR THE BEHEADING OF ST JOHN THE BAPTIST
In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Ones in Christ,
All of you who know me well, know that I have a deep affection for Queen Elizabeth and the British Royal Family in general. I enjoy following their activities, and hearing their news, as many Americans also do. One of the things I most admire about the Queen is her dedication to her Christian faith. She is not at all ashamed to speak about Christ, about His teachings, and about His example. I look forward every year to the Queen’s Christmas message in which she never fails to mention the Lord Jesus, His birth, and the true meaning of the Incarnation for the world. She speaks from the heart, of course. But she also speaks from her deep sense of duty as the sovereign of the whole nation. She knows that she has a duty, as the “Fidei Defensatrix,” the “Defender of the Faith” to be an example of Christian life and Christian witness. No matter how the world collapses around her, no matter the rampant secularism robbing her country of its traditional moorings, no matter the moral corruption and atheistic materialism which infects so many and causes so many of her subjects to forget about God, she remains resolute. She expects that her entire family will be resolute in their duty as well. And what is that duty? To be the City on the Hill, the shining example of piety and decorum; an example to inspire admiration and promulgate imitation. No one is more disappointed; no one is more deeply effected than Her Majesty, when any of the Royal Household fail to measure up; fail to embody the highest levels of Christian virtue and propriety. Why? Because she sees herself and her family as the ones appointed, by virtue of holy coronation, to stand before God and intercede for the People. In the Old Testament we see page after page of examples of Kings who loved God and walked according to His commandments, and the people prospered, and Kings who lived wickedly and lead their people astray, bringing down the whole nation. The Queen sees her role as similar to that. And what about us? We don’t have a king or queen here. But we do have leaders. Don’t we expect that they too should live virtuously, righteously, and as a good example for all Americans? Aren’t we disappointed when they have a moral slip or do something which scandalizes us? Of course we are. That’s why we pray for them, as St Paul commands us to do, several times a day in the Orthodox Church!
And this brings us to today’s celebration. Why was “the greatest man born of woman,” St John the Baptist, first arrested and eventually executed? Because as a prophet, he railed at king Herod for shacking up with his brother Philip’s wife! He railed at king Herod for being an affront to God, a wicked law-breaker, and a scandal before the people. St. John was appointed to make way for the coming Messiah, to get the road ready, to sweep it free of stumbling blocks and thorns. St John was preparing the people to meet God, while Herod was driving them away.
Beloved, there is no king in America, but each of us who marries in the Orthodox Church knows that both the Bridegroom and the Bride are crowned with crowns during the service. These crowns represent (along with other things) that they are the “king” and “queen” of their own new community which they are creating with the help of God. Let us not forget own own sacred duty to that kingship and queenship – we are to be that shining light, that city on the hill, that example of piety and virtue to our children as we raise them, and to others in the world around us as well. Keeping in mind the self-sacrificing life of St John the Forerunner, as well as perhaps the good example of one elderly, earthly monarch, let us pray for grace from our all-merciful Saviour, that we may imitate them. Amen.

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