Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.
Recently we were invited to Baby John’s baptism and I was planning to gift an icon of Epiphany. We always gift an icon of Epiphany for baptisms, if we can. It’s the icon of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist, baptizing Jesus.
I started to wonder if he was being named after the Baptist or a different John. You’d be surprised how many Johns there are. I searched the name “John” on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website. They have a “Search for a Saint” tab. I found 61 listings! Some were finding and re-finding relics and heads… it seems we lost the head of St. John the Baptist a few times. We celebrate St. John the Baptist’s Conception and Nativity. We also celebrate him with the Synaxis, the “piggyback” feast, of Epiphany, which is when most people celebrate his Name Day.
Many major feasts have a Synaxis or “piggyback” feast. The Presentation of Christ has St. Simeon. The Nativity of Christ has the Virgin Mary. The Annunciation has Archangel Gabriel. I think most Johns who celebrate with John the Baptist, do it on January 7, following Epiphany when we aren’t fasting because August 29th, when we remember his beheading (and we usually remember a saint when they leave this life,) we also observe a strict fast day. I think most people don’t want to have people over to celebrate on a strict fast day.
Besides the many feasts days of the Baptist, John the Evangelist has a few honorable mentions on the calendar as well. One is a miracle in Ephesus attributed to him on May 8th.
So when we boil it down, of the unique Johns who are saints, I found 47. They include:
John the Hut-Dweller 1/15
St. John of Rilas 10/19
The more familiar names include John Climacus the Righteous, author of The Divine Ladder of Ascent , The Falling Asleep of St. John the Evangelist and Theologian, John the Wonderworker of Kronstadt, and John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople whose Liturgy we regularly celebrate.
It turns out Baby John is named after St. John the Forerunner and Baptist, “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist…” (Matt 11:11) May he be illumined to know God’s grace and as courageous as his patron saint in defense of the will of God.
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