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August 29: The Beheading of the Baptist

Did you ever feel like you were being followed? It may sound a bit strange, but I do believe my family is being followed by St. John the Baptist. There are just so many connections. My husband's birthday is on the commemoration of the first finding of his head. We were married in St. John's Church and baptized our first three children there. My twins were due on the Feast of his birth, but thanks be to God, they came early. I pray to him a lot.

There were many times in my life that I thought about what St. John the Baptist would do if he was in my shoes and, as I prayed for his intercession, I found that his example was clearly what I needed. For instance there was a time,when I was in my teens, that (quite sadly) I was taught heresy in my catechism class and I looked to him as an example of bravery to speak out and correct the error. Then later on when changes were made and I was informed three days beforehand that my newborn son was to be the first in our deanery to follow our restored tradition of receiving the Eucharist along with his Baptism and Chrismation, I looked to him as an example of forging a new and necessary path. Even now, amid all the trials and difficulties that come with being a believer AND a parent in today's world, I admit there are times that I truly long to flee into the desert as he did, and live a life of solitude and prayer....alone. All alone! Then I remember those locusts and I come to my senses.

Yes, I believe the Baptist is following me...or maybe I am following him.

I truly do find him to be such a brave model of faith; his story a fascinating example of courage and justice! Many times we Christians are called to do as St. John did, and speak out against the clear outrages that oppose the will of God, and are often perpetrated by those who have authority over us. We need to flee into the refuge of our own homes to escape the daily persecution of our neighbors who don't understand our decisions or our relationship with God. We find that we are called to encourage those around us to repent and wash away their sins so they can make a fresh start. Like St. John the Baptist, we need, above all else, to prepare the way of the Lord in the hearts of our children so that they will be ready when He comes.

The historian Flavius Josephus tells us that at the fortress of Machaerus, in approximately the year 28AD, King Herod Antipas, who was Tetrarch, (meaning that he was given power over one fourth of Palestine) and Governor of Galilee had ordered that the Forerunner of the Lord, John the Baptist should be beheaded. Scripture accounts reveal that the saint was murdered after being imprisoned for speaking out against cohabitation. Imagine doing that today. The Baptist objected to the fact that the King left his own wife to live with his brother Philip's wife, Herodias, and he used every opportunity to publicly denounce Herod's action. As we know, at a birthday party, Herodias's daughter danced for the crowd, pleasing the King so much that he, in his sinful state, was so enraptured by her that he offered her whatever she asked know the rest of the story. Sometimes we do not receive justice in this life, but must wait until the next to obtain our reward for speaking against sin.

There is a tradition says that even from the platter, the voice of the Baptist was heard to tell Herod one last time that he should not be with his brother's wife, at which point Herodias was to have stabbed the tongue of the saint with a needle. She dumped the head, according to the mystic, Blessed Anne Katherine Emmerich, in a garbage dump outside the palace. A steward of the palace, named Chuza, had observed this and told his wife, Johanna...yes, the same Johanna Chuza who was mentioned in the Gospel as having been one of the myrrh-bearers...who had later set out to reclaim it. She gave the relic a proper burial in an earthen pot on the Mount of Olives, while the headless body of the Baptist was taken by his followers and buried near the palace.

I often like to contemplate what must have occured next, when the soul of the Baptist entered into the abode of the dead and joined all those other souls who were in waiting there. Imagine when he took his place among them and declared to them all that he was the forerunner of the One who would save them from Death. Imagine the rejoicing when he exclaimed to them that the Savior had been born, was baptized, and had begun His ministry on Earth and that he, John, was born to testify to it all. He was on His way They would not be waiting much longer.

Our God is indeed just.

It is said that Salome, the dancer, was crossing the frozen River Sikoris one winter day and fell through the ice, her feet dangling below her, while her head remained above the surface. Ironically, the ice shifted, decapitating her. Only Salome's head was recovered and it was found and brought back to Herod and Herodias by the same servants who had brought the head of the Baptist to Salome years before.

It is also said that the father-in-law of Herod, king Aretas of Arabia, had been so angered at the disrespect he had shown to his daughter, Herod's lawful wife, that he declared war against Herod, who was pitifully defeated. After the military loss, the Roman Emperor Caius Caligula challenged him as well and it was not long before Herod, along with his mistress, Herodias, was exiled to Gaul and then eventually to Spain.

Because St. John the Baptist is such a beloved saint, it is a pious custom to observe the day of his beheading as a day of strict fast. There are some who traditionally abstain from eating anything on a plate or platter, or anything round or that grows in the shape of a "head", such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, or lettuce, on this day as well. Some also refrain from using a knife.

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Lynne Wardach
Lynne Wardach

Haha! As a matter of fact, I do! It involves chocolate and rice cereal...for the crunch. No actual bugs though. :)


Scared of running off to the desert and eating locusts, are you? If anyone could come up with a great locust recipe, it would be you. :)

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