The decapitation of Saint John the Baptist, or more colloquially his beheading, is a memorial in the Church, unlike his birth, commemorated on June 29th, celebrated as a solemnity. Most saints, the day of their death is their primary feast day, but with Saint John, it was his birth that signified the coming of the Messiah: ‘He must increase, and I must decrease‘.
His death was the fruit, the ‘telos‘, of his life, as a constant and untiring witness to the truth, and the Truth, the last martyr of the Old Testament, and in some ways the first of the New (no offense to Saint Stephen, the ‘protomartyr’, which means the first after Christ’s own witness).
It is significant that John the Baptist gave his life witnessing to the sanctity of marriage, even in its obscured form before Christ, as an indissoluble reality. And also significant that it was Herod’s disordered desire to please his dancing step-daughter that was the immediate cause of the king’s rash promise, which in his pride and vanity he would not rescind. Instead, he re-sinned. Alas. We may entrust poor Herod to the mercy of God.
And we may plead through the intercession the Baptist, one of the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, for God’s mercy on our world, so mired in lust and various forms of deviant sexuality, and which has lost its head in a quite different way. I was driving through Ottawa on the weekend, after a beautiful Catholic wedding, as the capital city prepared for the ‘Gay Pride’ parade, which, I would imagine, was neither gay, nor did it have all that much about which to be proud. So many children wearing rainbows. Hmm. What was that about scandalizing the young?
In its own time, the full truth will be revealed, and we must witness thereto in our own way, even if it costs us our heads, one way or another.
Saint John the Baptist, ora pro nobis!