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The 23rd Day of the Month of September

Commemoration of the Conception of the Honorable and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John

At Vespers

At “Lord, I have cried…,” six stichera, in Tone IV, Special Melody: “Called from on high…”

While the godly Zechariah was officiating as priest within the most divine temple, offering up the petitions of the people to the most compassionate Benefactor, he beheld a most divine angel, who cried out to him: “Thy supplication and entreaty have been heard! Be of good cheer, O elder, and disbelieve not; for thou shalt have a child, the Forerunner of God, the greatest of all born of women, who, with the power of Elijah, will go before Christ!” Twice

“Strange dost thou appear to me in aspect and discourse; strange also in thy words and proclamations,” Zechariah objected. “For I have come to ask for the salvation of the people, not for the reception of a child, as thou dost state. I find thee contrary to my requests and am minded to place no credence in thee. For how can such a thing as that of which thou speakest come to pass? For Elizabeth is barren, and I, as thou knowest, am an elderly man.” Twice

“Why believest thou not my words, O Zechariah? Why sayest thou that I offer thee false tidings? I am the archangel of God; and those things which I am commanded, these do I relate to thee, standing here before thee. But inasmuch as thou hast not believed, and hast not faith, thou shalt be deaf and mute until thou shalt see the divine fulfillment of my words. And when Elizabeth will give birth for thee unto the voice of the Word, the great Forerunner, who will illumine the nation, thou shalt bless the God of Israel!” Twice

Glory…, the composition of Byzantius, in Tone VI

Today hath John the Forerunner, the fruit of prayer, sprung forth in a barren womb. Make merry, O desert, and join chorus with mankind; for, lo! the preacher of repentance cometh forth to be incarnate in his mother’s womb. Come, O ye who love the feasts of the Church, and, rejoicing in his glorious conception, let us form a choir, crying out: O thou who art the greatest born of woman, cease not to make supplication in behalf of those who celebrate thy divine conception, that we may find cleansing of our sins and great mercy.

Now and ever…, the Dogmaticon, in the same tone

Who doth not call thee blessed, O all-holy Virgin? Who will not hymn thine all-pure birthgiving? For the only-begotten Son Who shone forth timelessly from the Father, came forth, ineffably incarnate, from thee, the pure one; and being God by nature, He becameth man for our sake, not divided into two Persons, but known in two natures without confusion. Him do thou beseech, O pure and most blessed one, that our souls find mercy!

At the Aposticha, these stichera, in Tone VI, Special Melody: “Having set aside all…”

When the sacred prophet reverently entered the Holy of Holies, a holy angel, standing before the saint, as it is written, announced, saying: “Thy supplication hath been heard, and the barrenness of Elizabeth is now loosed; and she will bear thee a son, O elder: John the Forerunner, the beacon of the Sun, the greatest of the prophets, the voice of the Word Who will shine forth from the divine Virgin Maiden!”

Stichos: And thou, O child, shalt be called the prophet of the Most High.

“Tell me more plainly why I should believe this,” the most blessed elder said again to the angel; “As thou seest, I am full of days, and Elizabeth is barren. How, then, dost thou declare unto me words which are beyond nature? I am amazed, and now think that thou in no wise speakest the truth. Depart from me, O man! For I am asking deliverance for the people, and not to receive a child, a thing hard to accept!”

Stichos: That we might serve Him in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

“I am the archangel of the Almighty! Gabriel is my name,” the incorporeal one said to the elder. “And now be thou mute, and learn silence, for not believing what I have said; but when thy spouse will give birth for thee unto the clarion of the Word, thou shalt cry out most plainly, the Spirit enlightening thy tongue: `O child, thou shalt be called the prophet of the Most High, who by grace shalt make ready His path, as is His good pleasure!’”

Glory…, idiomelon, in Tone VI

Thou didst come forth from a barren womb as an angel, O Baptist; from thine earliest childhood thou didst make thine abode in the wilderness, and hast shown thyself to be the seal of all the prophets; for Him Whom they foresaw many times and proclaimed in indistinct images, wast thou counted worthy to baptize in the Jordan; and thou didst hear the voice of the Father from heaven, bearing witness to His Sonship; and thou didst see the Spirit in the form of a dove, drawing down the voice upon the One Who was being baptized. O thou who art the greatest of all the prophets: cease not to pray in behalf of us who faithfully celebrate thy memory.

Now and ever…, Theotokion

No one who hath recourse to thee, O all-pure Virgin Theotokos, departeth from thee ashamed; for he asketh grace and receiveth a gift for his profitable petition.

Troparion, in Tone IV

Make merry, O barren woman, who before wast unable to bear a child! For, lo! thou hast manifestly conceived the lamp of the Sun, who will enlighten all the world, which suffereth from blindness. Dance thou, O Zechariah, crying out with boldness: He who will be born is the prophet of the Most High!

At Compline

After the Trisagion, the Kontakion of the Forerunner.

At Matins

After the first chanting of the Psalter, this Sessional hymn, in Tone V, Special Melody: “The Word Who is co-unoriginate…”

Elizabeth hath been freed from barrenness; and the Virgin hath remained a virgin, even when she conceived in her womb at the cry of Gabriel. Yet John the Forerunner leapeth up in his mother’s womb, recognizing his God and Master beforehand, Who had become incarnate for our salvation within the Virgin’s womb. Twice

Glory…, Now and ever…, Theotokion

Rejoice, O holy and divinely trodden mountain! Rejoice, animate and unburnt bush! Rejoice, thou only bridge from the world to God, leading mortals to life eternal! Rejoice, unblemished maiden who, without man, gavest birth unto the Salvation of our souls!

After the second chanting of the Psalter, this Sessional hymn, in Tone IV, Special Melody: “Go thou quickly before…”

The dove that loveth the wilderness, the sacred Forerunner, who preached repentance and showed Christ to have become man, the intercessor for all sinners, hath been born, ever helping all who are tempest-tossed. By his supplications, O Christ, save Thou Thy world.

Glory…, Now and ever…, Theotokion

O thou who alone gavest birth to the Creator of all, who alone hast adorned mankind: by thy birthgiving, O all-pure one, deliver me from the snares of false Belial; set me upon the rock of Christ’s will, earnestly entreating Him to Whom thou gavest flesh.

Both canons from the Octoechos, without the martyria; and the canon of the Forerunner, with six Troparia, the composition of John of Damascus, in Tone VI

Ode I

Irmos: Traversing the deep on foot, as though it were dry land, and seeing the tyrant Pharaoh drowned, Israel cried aloud: Let us chant unto God a hymn of victory!

O offspring of the barren woman: uproot thou the barren thoughts of my barren soul, as I begin to praise thy holy conception in thy mother’s womb.

The sacred Zechariah, entering the temple, beheld the divine angel, who manifestly proclaimed to him: O priest, in thine old age thou shalt receive a son, the Forerunner.

The great Forerunner, the radiant beacon of the Sun of glory, is conceived to shine forth in his mother’s womb. By him the darkness of the passions is rent asunder and the bonds of barrenness are loosed.

Theotokion: Perceiving the Master borne in thy womb, O all-pure Theotokos, John, as His Forerunner, manifestly leapt for joy in his mother’s womb.

Ode III

Irmos: There is none as holy as Thee, O Lord my God, Who hast uplifted the horn of Thy faithful and established us on the rock of the confession of Thee, O Good One.

Today the barren one conceiveth the sacred fruit, the noetic axe who in later times would cut down all the barrenness of souls with grace.

Having been struck dumb within the temple, the great Zechariah receiveth the voice of the Word by an awesome announcement, and radiantly doth magnify the compassionate Lord.

The glorious Forerunner, who hath shown the faithful the firm path of repentance, by divine counsel surpassing hope hath at the angel’s command sprung forth in his mother’s womb.

Theotokion: As he who was born of the barren woman perceived Christ borne in the Virgin’s womb, he leapt up, heralding the Joy which had come into the world to deliver all from grief.

Sessional hymn, in Tone IV, Special Melody: “Joseph marvelled…”

From heaven Gabriel came down and stood before the sacred Zechariah as he was censing in the temple; and he said unto him: “In thine old age thou shalt bear a right glorious fruit, and the former sterility of Elizabeth shall now straightway be loosed, and the barren one shall give birth. And having conceived, she shall bear the Forerunner and herald of Jesus.” By their entreaties, O Savior of the world, save Thou our souls. Twice

Glory…, Now and ever…, Theotokion

O pure and all-immaculate one who knewest not wedlock, thou who alone hast given birth in time to the timeless Son and Word of God: with the holy and honorable apostles, martyrs and prophets, and the venerable, do thou beseech Him to grant us cleansing and great mercy.

Ode IV

Irmos: Christ is my power, my God and my Lord, the honored Church doth sing, crying out in godly manner with a pure mind, keeping festival in the Lord.

O blessed Forerunner, the voice of the angel proclaimed thee to the priest in sacred manner as the herald of the coming of Christ, who wast to spring forth from a barren womb.

O barren one, who before wast childless and hadst not given birth, be thou now glad, for most gloriously art thou bringing forth as fruit the Baptist and Forerunner, O right wondrous Elizabeth.

O Forerunner, with the scythe of thy prayer cut down the thorns of my passions and remove the stumbling block of mine evil thoughts; and by thy virtues render my mind fertile, O most blessed one.

Theotokion: The womb of the Virgin held Thee Who holdest all things, O Christ; and when the Baptist, borne in his mother’s womb, worshipped Thee, he rejoiced, leaping up.

Ode V

Irmos: With Thy divine light illumine the souls of those who with love rise at dawn unto Thee, O Good One, that they may know Thee, O Word of God, to be the true God Who calleth all forth from the darkness of sin.

To the prophet who entered the sanctuary and was offering up to the Creator the ministries of the Law, the holy angel appeared, announcing the divine conception of the Forerunner.

“How can this happen to me, for I am an old man, as thou seest, and I have a barren wife?” Zechariah said to the archangel. “Thou dost utter to me words which are contrary to nature!”

“Look at Sarah, the wife of Abraham, and behold how she brought forth Isaac in her old age, O man; and believe thou those things which have been justly spoken,” the great angel exhorted the elder.

Theotokion: “Blessed art thou among women, O thou who art full of the joy of God,” Elizabeth manifestly cried to thee when she knew thee to be her who would give birth without having known man, her who alone would remain incorrupt after giving birth.

Ode VI

Irmos: Beholding the sea of life surging with the tempest of temptations, fleeing to Thy calm haven I cry unto Thee: Lead up my life from corruption, O greatly Merciful One!

“My thoughts are filled with doubt, and I shall not believe thy words,” the priest said to the archangel, “for I am asking for the salvation of the people, not for the fruit of my loins.”

“The Creator of nature, the King of angels, hath been well pleased that thou give birth unto the herald of His own coming,” the ministering angel replied; “Do not disbelieve my words, O man!”

“Fiery is thine aspect, awesome thy visage, and wondrous thy discourse,” said Zechariah to the servant of God; “yet will I not believe thee who utterest strange words to me which surpass nature!”

Theotokion: In the dark abode of the womb, the lamp of the Sun offered worship and leapt up, rejoicing, recognizing the One concealed in the cloud of His Mother’s womb.

Kontakion, in Tone I, Special Melody: “The choir of the angels…”

Rejoice with splendor, O great Zechariah and most glorious Elizabeth, his spouse, in conceiving John the Forerunner as is meet, whom the archangel announced, rejoicing. O ye men, let us right worthily honor him as the initiate of the mystery of grace.

Ikos: Let us open the hallowed Gospel which the sacred and wondrous Luke hath recorded for us, and let us behold the radiant and honorable conception of the Forerunner. For he saith that, as the righteous elder Zechariah entered into the Holy of Holies to cense when it was his turn so to do, Gabriel stood before him, proclaiming and saying: “O priest, in thine old age thou shalt have a son, the prophet and Forerunner, the voice and herald, the ever-radiant beacon and initiate of the mysteries of grace!”

Ode VII

Irmos: The Angel caused the furnace to pour forth dew upon the pious youths, and the command of God, which consumed the Chaldæans, prevailed upon the tyrant to cry out: Blessed art Thou, O God of our fathers!

“Since thou dost not believe my words, receive thou most manifest muteness; and when thou shalt see the voice of the Word born, receive again thy voice, crying out: ‘Blessed art Thou, O God of Israel!’”

As radiant as the sun, Zechariah, cleaving unto Elizabeth, the moon, begat the light-bearing beacon of the Light, which shineth upon us who are cruelly held fast in the darkness of the passions.

Using leaps instead of words, the great Forerunner worshipped Thee in the Virgin’s womb, O Christ Jesus, while he himself was borne in the womb of Elizabeth. O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Theotokion: Elizabeth, the moon, bearing within herself a star, the divine Forerunner, bowed down before Mary, the radiant cloud, who was bearing Christ, the Sun, Who had taken flesh of her for our salvation.

Ode VIII

Irmos: From the flame didst Thou pour forth dew upon the venerable ones, and didst consume the sacrifice of the righteous one with water; for Thou, O Christ, dost do all things soever Thou desirest. Thee do we exalt supremely for all ages!

The friend of the Bridegroom is prepared; the voice of the Word receiveth his beginning; the great warrior of the King of all is now nourished in the womb of the barren one.

A husbandman hath come forth to tend barren hearts; an axe is already forged to fell the passions; an honorable bullock is nurtured on abstinence: the great Forerunner. Be glad, O ye people!

Break thou the stoniness of my mind, O Forerunner, as of old thou didst loose the bonds of the barren; and cause me to increase the fruits of repentance and to live forever.

Theotokion: As Elizabeth beheld thee pregnant, O Maiden, she rejoiced in godly manner, while within her her babe leapt as he recognized his Master.

Ode IX

Irmos: It is not possible for men to behold God, upon Whom the ranks of angels dare not gaze; but through thee, O most pure one, hath the Word appeared incarnate unto men; and magnifying Him with the armies of heaven, we call thee blessed.

Now having thrown wide the gate of the barren one, the great and divine Forerunner of Christ taketh up his abode within his mother’s womb, as within royal chambers, that he may issue forth as a warrior, preparing the way for the King of all.

Dance thou, O prophet of God and elder, for thou shalt bring forth a son, than whom none greater shall arise among men: John, the Forerunner of the Lord! Leap up, O Elizabeth! Rejoice, all the earth, offering praise to God, the Creator of all!

O prophet and Forerunner of the Lord, remember us now who praise thee in faith, delivering us from spiritual passions. Save us from misfortunes, guiding us in godly manner along the path to heaven, O ever-blessed one.

Theotokion: Sensing herself loosed of the bonds of barrenness and bearing the Forerunner of Him Who dwelt within thy womb, Elizabeth manifestly acknowledged thee to be the pure Mother, O pure Virgin Mary, full of the joy of God.

Exapostilarion, Special Melody: “With the disciples…”

The glorious conception of the Forerunner heralds the King Who is to be born of the Virgin; for he is born of Elizabeth, barren and childless, and the great Zechariah, elder and priest. Through their prayers and those of the Theotokos and of John, Thy Baptist, O Lord, save and take pity on all. Twice

Theotokion

By the counsel of the Father hath the preëternal Son in truth wrought great things through thee; for without pain thou gavest birth to immortal Life and hast remained as thou wast before giving birth, escaping the pangs of motherhood; and thou hast remained a virgin even after childbirth, O Virgin.

On the Praises, four stichera, in Tone I, Special Melody: “Joy of the ranks of heaven…”

Creation rejoiceth in thy conception, O prophet and Forerunner, John the Baptist, for thy divine birth doth foretoken the nativity of the Master for us. Wherefore, together, we on earth do praise thee as is meet.

The angel, finding the conception of the barren one to be a wondrous witness, citeth it to Mary, offering it to her as confirmation. Wherefore, we praise the barren Elizabeth, Zechariah, her spouse, and John.

The divinely wrought lamp of the everlasting Light, the friend of the Bridegroom, the great luminary of the glory of the Sun, the living voice of the Word of God, the Forerunner of the coming of the Lord, is now conceived at the angel’s announcement.

O Forerunner, thou art manifestly known to be the divine altar of the sweet-smelling incense of Christ, stationed at His right hand, pouring forth the fragrance of the knowledge of Him, prefigured by the angels’ and saints’ standing at His right hand.

Glory…, Now and ever…, in Tone VI

Elizabeth conceived the Forerunner of grace, and the Virgin conceived the Lord of glory. When both mothers embraced in greeting, the babe of the one leapt up, for the servant within her was praising his Master. Marvelling, the mother of the Forerunner began to cry out: “Why is this granted to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” May He that hath great mercy save His despairing people.

Great Doxology. Troparion of the saint.

Glory…, Now and ever…: Theotokion

The mystery hidden from before the ages and unknown even to the angels, through thee, O Theotokos, hath been revealed to those on earth: God incarnate in unconfused union, Who willingly accepted the Cross for our sake and, thereby raising up the first-formed man, hath saved our souls from death.

The ektenias, and the rest.

At Divine Liturgy

On the Beatitudes, eight Troparia, from Odes III and VI of the canon of the Forerunner.

Prokimenon

The righteous man shall be glad in the Lord, and shall hope in Him.

Stichos: Hearken, O God, unto my prayer, when I make supplication unto Thee.

Reading from the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians (4:22-27).

Brethren: Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath a husband.

Alleluia, in Tone IV

Stichos: The righteous man shall flourish like a palm tree, and like a cedar in Lebanon shall he be multiplied.

Stichos: They that are planted in the house of the Lord, in the courts of our God shall they blossom forth.

Reading from the Gospel according to Luke (1:5-25).

At that time, in the days of Herod, the king of Judæa, a certain priest named Zechariah, of the course of Abijah: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren; and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that, while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zechariah saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zechariah: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. And Zechariah said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people waited for Zechariah, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

Communion Verse

In everlasting remembrance shall the righteous be; he shall not be afraid of evil tidings.

The Menaion of the Orthodox Church © Isaac E. Lambertsen