Orthodox Christians are celebrating the birthday of saint prophet John the Baptist, who had baptized Jesus Christ.
The Gospel according to Luke says that St. John's righteous parents, namely, priest Zacharias and Elisabeth, had no children until old age. St. Zacharias once beheld Archangel Gabriel, while performing a divine liturgy at the Jerusalem temple. Archangel Gabriel told St. Zacharias that he and his wife will have a son, i.e. the forerunner of the Savior, whose appearance was predicted by the Old Testament Church.
St. Zacharias doubted whether one could have a son in old age, asking Archangel Gabriel for a sign. The sign was given, with Zacharias becoming dumb for his lack of faith; he was unable to speak until the birth of St. John the Baptist. The baby was named John in line with Archangel Gabriel's prediction.
Messiah Jesus Christ was born soon afterward, with king Herod learning about this. Herod then ordered his soldiers to massacre all infants in Bethlehem and its environs. St. Elisabeth then ran away with her son John into the desert, subsequently hiding inside a cave. St. Zacharias, who continued to execute the priest's office at the Jerusalem temple, was approached by Herod's soldiers and ordered to disclose the whereabouts of the baby and his mother. Zacharias said he didn't know and was killed.
Elisabeth hid in the desert for the rest of her life. Meanwhile St. John the Baptist was guarded by an angel in the desert until the right moment, that is, when it became necessary to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. St. John then preached repentance, subsequently baptizing Christ the infant.
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