Orthodox Calendar

March 8, 2024
Friday of Meatfare

Fast

Feasts

  • 1st and 2nd Finding Honorable Head of St John the Baptist

Commemorations

  • Saint Aethelberht (Ethelbert), first Christian King of Kent (616)

Scripture Readings (KJV)

Composite 8 - Isaiah 40, 41, 45, 48, 54 (Vespers, Forerunner)

1Thus says the Lord: Comfort, comfort my people, says God. Priests, speak to the heart of Jerusalem. Comfort her, because her humiliation has been completed; for her has sin has been abolished, because she has received from the Lord’s hand double for her sins. A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. Every valley will be filled and every mountain and hill made low; what is crooked will become straight, and the rough ways will be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Go up onto a high mountain, you who bring good tidings to Sion; lift up your voice with strength, you who bring good tidings to Jerusalem. Lift it up, do not be afraid. I the Lord God, I, the God of Israel, will hearken and will not forsake them; but I will open rivers from the mountains and springs in the middle of plains. I will turn the wilderness into water meadows and the thirsty earth with water courses. Let the heavens rejoice from on high and let the clouds rain justice. Let the earth sprout and blossom with mercy and justice. Announce a voice of gladness to the end of the earth and let this be heard: Say that the Lord has delivered his servant Jacob. And if they thirst through deserts, he will bring water for them from a rock. Rejoice you barren who have never given birth, break out and shout, you who have never known birth pangs, for the children of the deserted are more than those of her who has a husband.

Composite 9 - Malachi 3, 4 (Vespers, Forerunner)

1Thus says the Lord Almighty: See, I am sending my Angel, my messenger, before your face, who will prepare your way before you. And the Lord whom you seek will come to his temple. And who will endure the day of his entrance? And who will withstand at his appearing? Because he will enter like fire in a smelting furnace and like the lye of launderers. And he will come to you in judgement; and he will be a swift witness against the wicked and against adulteresses and against those swear falsely in his name and those who do not fear him, says the Lord Almighty. Because I am the Lord your God, and I have not changed and you, children of Jacob, have perverted the laws and not kept them. Therefore turn back to me and I will turn back to you, says the Lord Almighty. And all the nations will call you blessed and you will know that I am the Lord who discern between just and lawless on the day on which I make a peculiar possession of those who love me. Know then and remember the law of Moses my servant, as I gave him commandment on Horeb, to all Israel ordinances and judgements. And see, I will send you Elias the Thesbite, before the great and manifest day of the Lord comes; he will turn again the heart of father to son and of a man to his neighbour, lest when I come I smite the earth grievously, says the Lord Almighty, God the Holy One of Israel.

Composite 3 - Wisdom of Solomon 4, 5 (Vespers, Forerunner)

1A just man if he comes to his end will be at rest. A just man who dies will condemn the ungodly who are alive; for they will see the end of a just man and will not understand what they counselled concerning him. For the Lord will break the ungodly, render them voiceless and cast them headlong, and he will shake them from the foundations and they will be utterly worsted in sorrow, and their memory shall perish. They shall come with fear at the accounting of their sins, and their iniquities will convict them to their face. Then the just will stand with much boldness in the face of those who afflicted him and made his toils of no account. When they see this they will be troubled with great fear and will be amazed at the wonder of his salvation. For they will say as they repent and with anguish they will groan and say: Is this he whom we fools once made a laughing stock and a byword of reproach? We reckoned his life folly and his end dishonour. How has he been numbered among the children of God and his lot with the Saints? Therefore we have erred from the way of truth and the light of righteousness has not shone on us and the sun has not dawned on us. We have been filled with paths of lawlessness and destruction and journeyed through trackless paths, but have not known the way of the Lord.

Luke 7.17-30 (Matins Gospel, Forerunner)

17And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judæa, and throughout all the region round about. 18And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.

19And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? 20When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? 21And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. 22Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. 23And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

24And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 25But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. 26But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. 27This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 28For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. 29And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. 30But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.

2 John 1.1-13 (Epistle)

1The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; 2For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. 3Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

4I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. 5And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. 7For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 9Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

12Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 13The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.

2 Corinthians 4.6-15 (Epistle, Forerunner)

6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 8We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. 12So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 13We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; 14Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. 15For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

Mark 15.22, 25, 33-41 (Gospel)

22And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. 25And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. 33And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 35And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias. 36And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down. 37And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. 38And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

39And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. 40There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; 41(Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.

Matthew 11.2-15 (Gospel, Forerunner)

2Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

7And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 11Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. 15He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Commemorations (abbamoses.com)

First (4th c.) and Second (9th c.) Findings of the Precious Head of St John the Baptist

After the Forerunner was beheaded at the order of Herod and his illicit wife Herodias, his head was discarded in what the Synaxarion calls “an unseemly location,” presumably a privy. According to some, it was secretly recovered by Joanna, one of the Myrrhbearing women, and given honorable burial near Jerusalem. There it was found, through a revelation of the Forerunner, by two monks who had come to Jerusalem to worship at the tomb of our Savior (the first finding). Putting the head in a bag, the monks returned home. On the way, they met an indigent potter from Emesa. That night the Forerunner appeared to the poor man and instructed him to make off with the relic. He returned with it to Emesa and immediately began to prosper in his business. Just before he died, he put the holy relic in a chest, which he left to his sister with these instructions: never to open it without instructions from the one hidden inside it; and to pass it on to a pious man beloved of God. Thus the Head of the Baptist passed through many generations, eventually being concealed in a cave near a monastery founded during the reign of Marcian (450-457), whose abbot was the godly Marcellus.

The blessed Forerunner appeared several times to Marcellus, embracing him and once even giving him a pot of honey. The Baptist ordered Marcellus to follow a star which led him to the cave and came to rest in front of a niche in the wall. Marcellus dug there and came upon a marble slab, under which was a large jar containing the precious Head. The holy relic was taken with rejoicing to the cathedral in Emesa,where it worked many wonders. In the reign of Michael III (842-867), it was taken to Constantinople. It was at this translation that the present Feast was instituted.

The version given here is that of St Symeon Metaphrastes. Other sources give substantially different accounts.

The Prologue observes: “It is important and interesting to note that, while he was alive, John did not work a single miracle (Jn 10:41), but to his relics was given the blessed power of working miracles.”

Saint Aethelberht (Ethelbert), first Christian King of Kent (616)

In 597, a party of forty missionary monks, led by St Augustine of Canterbury (May 28), was sent to Britain by the holy Pope Gregory the Great, to bring the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ to the English people. Aethelberht, who had been King of Kent for thirty-six years, received the monks favorably, allowed them to preach in his kingdom, and invited them to establish their headquarters in Canterbury, his capital city, which already contained a small, ruined church dedicated to St Martin of Tours in Roman times.

The king himself was converted and received holy Baptism at the hands of St Augustine; a crowd of his subjects followed his example. When St Augustine was consecrated bishop, Aethelberht allowed him to be made Archbishop of Canterbury and gave his own palace to serve as a monastery. The king worked steadily for the conversion of the neighboring kindoms, and in 604 established an episcopal see in London. Unlike some Christian rulers, he refused to see anyone converted forcibly.

Saint Aethelberht reposed in peace in 616, after reigning for fifty-six years. He was buried in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, which he had established. Many miracles were worked at his tomb, where a lamp was kept lit perpetually until the monastery was disbanded by the Protestants in 1538.