Text from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal,
unless otherwise stated.
The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.
Feast Day 29 August.
"The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist".
Artist: Caravaggio (1571–1610).
Current location: Altarpiece in The Oratory,
Saint John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta, Malta.
Source/Photographer: The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM,
2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.
Permission: Wikide-I / 10.000 Gemälde für Commons.
John the Precursor, who had passed thirty years in the desert, where he had flourished like the Palm Tree, and grown like The Cedar of Libanus (Gradual), had the courage openly to reproach Herod with the scandal of his illegitimate union with Herodias, his sister-in-law, whose husband, Philip, was still alive (Introit, Epistle, Gospel).
"It is against the law," he said to the King, "for you to take the wife of your brother." Herodias forced Herod to imprison him and used an unexpected opportunity to obtain through her daughter, Salome, the beheading of the Saint who thwarted her criminal passion.
On this day, Saint John completes his mission, adding to the testimony he gave to Christ at His Baptism, the testimony of his Martyrdom. He was put to death towards the Passover, one year before The Passion of Jesus; but the Anniversary is Solemnised on the day when his Venerable head was found at Emesa, in Syria, in 453 A.D.
It is related in ancient legends that, on a Winter's day, when Salome was dancing on a frozen river, the ice broke and, closing again, cut off the head of the immodest dancer.
Commemoration: Saint Sabina. Martyr.