The Saturday following the Holy Feast of the Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Armenian Church commemorates the beheading of St. John the Baptist (also known as The Forerunner).
The writers of the Gospels, St. Matthew and St. Mark, have explained the history of beheading of St. John the Baptist, who had baptised Christ and gave the good news of His Coming (Mt 14:1-12; St. Mk 6:14-29).
According to the Evangelists, King Herod arrests and imprisons St. John the Baptist, as a result of John’s condemnation of the king’s marriage to Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod wants to put John to death, but fears the Jews because they considered John to be a prophet.
On Herod’s birthday, fascinated by the dancing of the daughter of Herodias, the king makes an oath to give her anything for which she asks. Following her unforgiving mother’s instructions, she asks for the head of St. John the Baptist on a platter. The king, realising he has been fooled, grants the request.
St. John the Baptist is one of the greatest saints in the Armenian Church. We entreat his name as an intercessor during the divine services, generally following the name of St. Mary. According to tradition, St. Gregory the Illuminator, brings the relics of St. John to Armenia from Caesarea, and buries them near the town of Moush, after which the famous Monastery of St. John the Baptist is built. Tradition also tells us that the head of St. John the Baptist is buried underneath the Holy Altar of the Gandzasar Monastery in Artsakh. St. John the Baptist remains as one of the most popular saints among the Armenian faithful.