Post date: Sep 20, 2014 10:20:10 PM
On August 29, the Church commemorates the beheading of St. John the Baptist. The remembrance is kept as a strict fast day. This is not simply because we recall St. John’s death; if that were the case, every martyr’s feast would be a strict fast. Rather, it is a reminder of the circumstances in which that death occurred: in the midst of unrestrained partying. As we remember the mindlessness of King Herod, we become mindful of our attitude, of the things we eat and drink, of the things we use for our entertainment. There is a pious custom in some places that nothing is eaten off a plate that day, since the head of St. John was presented to Herod on a platter.
The entire day is a day of mindfulness. But, while August 29 has a number of tangible things that help our mindfulness, I think we can very well say that our church life is designed to cultivate mindfulness. The various times of prayer during the day (e.g., upon waking, before and after meals, before work, before sleep), the sacrament of confession and the accompanying searching of our conscience (or, on a smaller scale, the daily evaluation of the day that passed before we go to sleep), the acts of good that we do because of our identity as Christians, the guarding of our thoughts and words – all these things are there to make us mindful how we live our lives and, most importantly, of God’s presence which can sanctify everyone and everything.
Whether or not we are able to attend the services for the Beheading of the Forerunner, may we be mindful on that day and every day.
With love in Christ,