On the day after Theophany when the Orthodox Church celebrates St. John the Baptist’s role in the feast, Fr. Matthew Howell explains what the word “Synaxis” means in relation to this and other feasts like it. He goes on to talk about the unique role that St. John the Baptist plays in the history of salvation, especially how he is the only prophet who uses his hand to prophesy the Messiah. He wraps up by talking about St. John’s message of repentance and how that portends not only a turning away from sin but more importantly a turning towards God throughout one’s life. Along the way, Fr. Matthew drops an anecdote about how St. John the Baptist’s hand prophesied feast or famine in Antioch long after his death, and also tangentially notes that Jesus did not receive baptism out of necessity but instead to purify the waters and to bless the act of baptism.
Acts of the Apostles 19:1-8
In those days, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all. And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God.
At that time, John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John bore witness, ‘I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.’