This Saturday January 7th is the commemoration of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (Phsoq Risheh d-Yuhanon Mam’dono) according to the liturgical calendar of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
On this day, the forerunner and great prophet, Mor Yohanan Mam’dono, son of Zacharias the priest, was martyred by the order of King Herod. When St. John rebuked Herod because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Phillip whom he had taken as a wife, he said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” (Mark:6:18) Herod seized the Saint and cast him into prison; however, he feared John.
An opportune day came when Herod, on his birthday, gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers and the chief men of Galilee. And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced and pleased Herod. He promised her anything she might ask for, even as much as half of his kingdom. She went to her mother and asked her, “What shall I ask?” Her mother said, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” When Herod heard this, he was exceedingly sorry. But because of his promise and those who were sitting with him, he did not want to refuse her request. He therefore commanded his servants to cut off the head of Saint John and they gave it to the damsel and the damsel gave it to her mother. (Mark 6:20-28) There was great consternation that day, and their joy soon turned into sorrow.
His mortal remains are entombed in the Basilica of Saint John the Baptist in Damascus Syria. After the rise of the Umayyad Dynasty, this church was converted into a mosque. However, the shrine housing his remains was kept intact. Today, Umayyad Mosque or Great Mosque of Damascus (Ğām’ Banī ‘Umayya al-Kabīr) continues to be a pilgrim site for both Christians and Muslims (to whom he is known as prophet Yaha