Conception of the Honorable Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John; Sts. Xanthippa and Polyxena

1. The Conception of the Venerable Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John: The holy Prophet Malachi prophesied that before the Messiah’s birth His Forerunner would appear, and would indicate His coming. The Jews therefore in awaiting the Messiah also awaited the appearance of His Forerunner.

In a city of the hills of Judea in the land of Palestine lived the righteous priest Saint Zachariah and his wife Saint Elizabeth, zealously observing the commandments of the Lord. The couple, however, had a misfortune: they remained childless in their old age, and they prayed unceasingly to God to grant them a child.

Once, when Saint Zachariah took his turn as priest at the Temple of Jerusalem, he went into the Sanctuary to offer incense. Going behind the veil of the Sanctuary, he beheld an angel of God standing at the right side of the altar of incense.

Saint Zachariah was astonished and halted in fear, but the angel said to him, “Fear not, Zachariah, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.”

But Zachariah did not believe the words of the heavenly messenger, and then the angel said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you the good news. Behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words….”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zachariah and they were astonished that he had not come out from the Sanctuary after so long a time.

And when he did come out, he was supposed to pronounce a blessing upon the people, but could not do so because he had been struck speechless. When Zachariah explained by gestures that he was unable to speak, the people then understood that he had experienced a vision.

The prophecy of the Archangel was fulfilled, and Righteous Elizabeth was delivered from her barrenness, and gave birth to John, the Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

2. The Monastic Women Xanthippe and Polyxene were sisters by birth and they lived in Spain in the time of the holy Apostles. They were among the first to hear the divine teaching of Christ the Savior from the holy Apostle Paul, when he preached in their land.

Saint Xanthippe and her husband Probus accepted Christianity, but Saint Polyxene was still a pagan when a certain man became entranced with her extraordinary beauty and forcibly carried her off to Greece on a ship.

The Lord preserved her unharmed. On the voyage, the saint heard the preaching of the holy Apostle Peter and believed in Christ.

When she arrived in Greece, Saint Polyxene turned to the Christians for protection and defense and they hid her in the city of Patra in Achaia, where she formally accepted Christianity and was baptized by the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called himself.

She became a witness to his miracles, and how he patiently and humbly endured his sufferings and death.

She stood at the cross upon which they crucified the holy Apostle Andrew. After his martyric death, Saint Polyxene returned to Spain, where she and her older sister Xanthippe converted many pagans to Christ.

Saint Polyxene toiled for about forty years preaching the Gospel in Spain. Saint Xanthippe shared in her sister’s work and preached in the populous city of Toledo.

Saint Polyxene reposed in about the year 109, having preserved her virginity to the end of her earthly life.

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