St. Luke of Simferopol on St. John the Forerunner in the Desert (amateur translation)
The whole life of the Forerunner was a harsh life. On the years of his childhood, we know only that which is told us by the Evangelist Like, in other words, “he grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the desert until the day of his public ministry towards Israel” (Luke 1:80). How and when the child was found in the desert we do not know for sure. According to tradition, King Herod, after the slaughter of the children in Bethlehem, wanted to kill John, but he couldn’t find him. This angered him greatly, and because of this he ordered his father Zacharias be killed. His mother, having learned that the soldiers were looking for the child, took him and went with him to a desolate mountain region. There having lived a short time, his mother died and the small John remained by himself in the desert.
We do not know how the Lord God fed him, how he protected him from the wild animals, neither do we know how the young Forerunner learned to eat akrides and wild honey. But we firmly believe, however, that for God all things are possible. See, therefore, that from the beginning, the life of him who would be called “[greatest] among those born of women” (Matthew 11:11) was an unprecedented and unheard of life. He remained in the desert totally by himself until thirty years of age. What did he do in the desert? What did he occupy himself with? He did not have any handiwork, and didn’t have books, neither did he know letters.
The biographies of the great philosophers, such as Descartes and Kant, relate that these men spent whole days and nights sitting in their armchairs, engrossed in their thoughts. Philosophy is deep, but deeper still is theologic meditation, the greatest form of prayer, which the holy fathers call noetic prayer. The depth of communion in Spirit which the saints have with God is inconceivably great…In the ceaseless contemplation of God and of the fortunes of the world, in deep communion of prayer with God, his spirit grew and his understanding of the ways of salvation increased, to which he would teach the people, who were being lost in their sins. He would have to change their thoughts and the senses of the people, to make them deeper. To urge them to repent and to change their perverted and evil ways.
This was roughly the purpose, to prepare the road, in other words, for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which He intended for His great Forerunner."
(amateur translation of an excerpt from St. Luke's Homily in Greek on the Birth of the Precious, Glorious, Prophet and Baptist John: http://ipseni.blogspot.com/2010/06/blog-post_23.html)