This icon is a part of a Deisis set which depicts the Virgin and the Holy Saints standing on either side of Christ Enthroned. They lift up their hands to Him in prayerful supplication. The icon is attributed to St. Andrei Rublev, the most famous iconographer of Russia, whose icons exude holiness and transcendent glory.
From his very birth (Luke 1) St. John became famous throughout Israel by virtue of the divine signs which attended him. Many later thought that he was the Messiah. Denying this, he proclaimed Jesus as Christ, saying that he was “Not fit to untie the thong of His sandals” (Luke 3:16; Mark 1:7, and John 6:36).
St. John was killed because he reprimanded Herod and Herodias for their unlawful union, and because Herod was pleased at the dancing of Herodias’ daughter Salome. He was a fiery and blazing torch of faith and repentance, calling many in Israel to the baptism of repentance before Christ would give the baptism of spirit later. He is an icon of faith, of faithfulness, of repentance, and of love, and by Christ’s own words, “The greatest among those born of woman.” Holy St. John pray for us!