August 29, 2014

Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

Psalm 140

1 Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men;
  preserve me from violent men,
2 who plan evil things in their heart,
  and stir up wars continually.
3 They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s,
  and under their lips is the poison of vipers.
4 Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
  preserve me from violent men,
  who have planned to trip up my feet.
5 Arrogant men have hidden a trap for me,
  and with cords they have spread a net,
  by the wayside they have set snares for me.
6 I say to the Lord, Thou art my God;
  give ear to the voice of my supplications, O Lord!
7 O Lord, my Lord, my strong deliverer,
  Thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.
8 Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;
  do not further his evil plot!
9 Those who surround me lift up their head,
  let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!
10 Let burning coals fall upon them!
  Let them be cast into pits, no more to rise!
11 Let not the slanderer be established in the land;
  let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!
12 I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the afflicted,
  and executes justice for the needy.
13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Thy name;
  the upright shall dwell in Thy presence.

Orthodox Christians hear Psalm 140 in the context of Holy Week and Christ’s suffering. On Holy Friday, at the 6th Hour, the whole psalm is read. At the Vesperal Liturgy on Holy Thursday, as the Lord is about to be betrayed, arrested, slandered, tortured, humiliated and crucified, we hear Psalm 140:1-2 as the First Prokeimenon (in its Greek version):

Beheading St John
Beheading of St John the Baptist

Deliver me, O Lord, from violent men…
Verse: who have schemed unrighteousness in their hearts all the day long!

Holy Week: “Deliver me, O Lord, from violent men!”

We live in a ferocious, barbaric world. Today we recall the beheading of Saint John the Baptist two-thousand years ago, but news reports of recent days also speak of beheadings and crucifixions being perpetrated right now in Iraq and Syria. The Lord went to the Cross to redeem the world from such violence. May He preserve us from the violence of others, but also from our own violent passions.

Thou hast worked salvation in the midst of the earth, O Christ our God,
By stretching out Thy most pure hands upon the cross,
Gathering together all the nations, who cry:
O Lord, glory to Thee!

(Holy Friday, Troparion)

A Request for Your Advice about the Chancellor’s Diary

I will be on vacation next week and will resume the Diary on September 9th.  In the meantime your advice would be appreciated. I’ve been writing this column since 2012 and right now am coming to the end of the series on the Psalms.
What recommendations can you give me about the content and format of the Chancellor’s Diary? Is it helpful, hitting the mark?

Please email me your advice at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Thank you.