Because John’s main role in his life was played out on the day of the Theophany, the Church has from earliest times dedicated the day following Theophany to his memory. An incident with the hand of the Forerunner is also linked to this feast. The Evangelist Luke desired to remove the body of John from Sebaste, where the great prophet was beheaded by Herod, to Antioch, his place of birth. He succeeded, though, in acquiring and translating only one hand, which was preserved in Antioch until the tenth century. After this it was transferred to Constantinople, whence it disappeared during the time of the Turks.
Feasts of St. John are celebrated several times throughout the year. Among the Gospel personalities who surround the Savior, John the Baptist occupies a totally unique place by the manner of his entry into the world, and by the manner of his life in this world; by his role in baptizing people for repentance; by his baptizing the Messiah; and, finally, by his tragic departure from this life. He was of such moral purity that, in truth, he could be called an angel — as Holy Scripture calls him — rather than a mortal man. St. John especially differs from all other prophets in that he had the privilege of being able, with his hand, to show the world Him about Whom he prophesied.
It is said that every year on the feast of the saint, the bishop brought the hand of St. John before the people. Sometimes the hand appeared open and other times the hand appeared clenched. In the first case it signified a fruitful and bountiful year, and in the second case it meant a year of unfruitfulness and famine.