August 28, 2016 -
"THE ICON OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST"
St. John the Baptist enjoys a distinction among the saints of the Church. One of the days of the week is dedicated to him. The Church observes his birth as a feast day – joining the Holy Virgin as the only saints so distinguished. But the greatest tribute to John is from Christ Himself, Who said that he is greatest “among those that are born of women . . .”
St. John is the Forerunner of Christ, that is, the one who prepared the way for the coming of the Lord. He is the Baptizer of Christ, performing this rite in the waters of the Jordan River. He is also a Martyr and prophet, with his words echoing through the centuries: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven iis at hand . . .The axe is laid to the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire . . .”
This finely executed icon of John graphically tells the story of his life, his ministry, and his death. He is portrayed with the wings of an Angel, not only because he was the unique messenger of God preparing the way for Christ, but also because of the sanctity and austerity of his life. He was, so to speak, an Angel in the flesh.
Clothed in an inner garment of camel’s hair, John is poised in the stance of a preacher proclaiming repentance in the country about the Jordan. The rocky formations astride the Baptist represent the wilderness of Judea where he dwelt. The bush and the axe are references to his teaching. The plate with his decapitated head is a reminder of his martyrdom at the hands of King Herod. John stands facing the half-Figure of Christ (in the upper corner of the icon) for Whom the Forerunner prepared the way and Whom he pointed out to the people: “Behold the Lamb of God . . .”