“He must increase, but I must decrease”
The Acts reading today for the Beheading of John the Baptist comes from Saint Paul’s first missionary sermon in Asia Minor, when he was invited to preach in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch. His words about the promised Messiah electrified the congregation, “and as they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next sabbath” (Acts13:42). In passing he had mentioned John the Baptist, who “had preached a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel” (Acts 13:24).
This is a reminder that John was a historic, public figure. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37–100) gives an account of John and his death in his Jewish Antiquities (book 18, chapter 5, 2):
Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure to him.
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Bishop Michael of New York was in St Sergius chapel last night for Great Vespers and at the end he summarized the message of St John for us all. Quoting John’s words about Christ in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
The Pension Board
Archbishop Nikon is at the Chancery today for a meeting of the Pension Board, chaired by John Sedor. Maureen Ahearn (Pension Administrator) and Barbara Anderson (Pension Bookkeeper) have offices on the Chanceries third floor and are the day-to-day faces of the Pension Board to the retirees, widows and beneficiaries who receive pensions in the OCA.
Please take a look at the Pension Board section of the website to learn more about the excellent work they are doing.