The Armenian Church calendar occasionally gives us an unlikely pairing of saints on a single feast day: an “odd couple” who don’t quite fit together. That’s the case with the day dedicated to St. John the Forerunner and Job the Righteous—observed today, August 31.
One comes from the Old Testament, the other from the New. One was a comfortable man of the world who was stripped of every blessing he had. The other was a man who rejected the world—who voluntarily cast off the material comforts of life.
Job was the innocent victim of accusers—including the most devilish Accuser of all—whose former friends blamed him for the evils he suffered. John the Forerunner (or the Baptist) was one of the great accusers of the Bible, who pointed the finger of rebuke at the immoral politicians and corrupt religious authorities of the day.
John and Job are opposites in so many ways. Yet what they held in common was vastly more important.
Each was a voice crying out in a wilderness. Each stood in a desert of material poverty: comfortless and even friendless; stripped of all worldly pretension. Yet even in such a state, John and Job testified with all their heart that they were not alone. God was with them—and in the end, that was the only thing that mattered.
Theirs is a fitting example to close this month of heartache: a time of violence and disorder, when our society seems to be spiraling out of control; when Nature itself intimidates us with its relentless fury.
John and Job would have felt right at home in such a time. They were not strangers to the fears and apprehensions we endure today. But they had faith that God had not abandoned them. And that faith allowed them to persevere—even though the entire world might turn against them.
It’s odd how a pairing of saints on the church calendar, set down ages ago, can still speak to our present moment. In its mysterious way, the church knows what we need to remember, and reminds us when we need it most.
—Christopher H. Zakian
Above: “Job and His Accusers,” by William Blake (1805)