John the Baptist is one of the most highly venerated saints in Byzantine tradition. Off the top of my head I can think of only three nativity feasts: Jesus’, Mary’s, and John the Baptist’s. We also celebrate the conceptions of these same three. Like many other saints, we celebrate a feast for his death (The Beheading of John the Baptist). But this week we are celebrating a more obscure feast – the Finding of John the Baptist’s head the first and second time.
Officially, this feast day is titled “The First and Second Finding of the Precious Head of the Holy, Glorious Prophet and Forerunner, John the Baptist.” Let us celebrate this feast day with prayers and and activities which bring us closer to Jesus Christ!
Prayers for Finding John the Baptist’s Head
Troparion: (Tone 4)
The head of the Forerunner has dawned from the Earth, shedding rays of incorruption and healing on those who believe. From on high it assembles a multitude of angels, and from below it calls humanity together to glorify Christ our God with one voice.
Kontakion: (Tone 6)
O Forerunner of Grace and Prophet of God, having obtained your head from the Earth like a sacred rose, we receive from you always gifts of healing, for again as of old you proclaim repentance to the world.
John the Baptist Feast Day Activities
Attend Divine Liturgy on this feast day if possible. Also you can use the Troparion and Kontakion listed above during your icon corner time.
When planning your meals for the day, avoid eating lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage. This tradition comes from the fact that John the Baptist was beheaded. Since we call these vegetables heads of lettuce, etc., we avoid them. You can take this a step further and avoid serving anything on a “platter.” So it looks like this is going to be a good day for stews and rice bowls.
For Kids: Host a John the Baptist Head Hunt. Place small icons or saints images around the home and see how long it takes to find the right image. Or if you have a larger family it can be a challenge to see who can find John the Baptist’s head first. Also, there is another way to do this if you have plastic Easter eggs. You can print out saints’ images and put them inside. This way the children have to open to egg to see what image is inside.
Other option for kids: For a sensory activity you could bury a small statue/saints metal/laminated saint card. You could put it in some sand (or flour, or whipped cream, or shaving cream, or whatever sensory material you like!) and have your children go searching for John the Baptist.
The Byzantine Life
If you enjoyed this week’s article, you might also be interested in reading about Cheesefare and Meatfare Sundays, or about Forgiveness Vespers. And if you want to read more about John the Baptist, check out our articles on his Nativity feast day, and on the Synaxis of John the Baptist.
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