See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Midsummer Eve

St. John's Eve.
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The summer solstice marked the point of midsummer for pagan Europe - the midpoint between May 1 and August 1, hence the night was a celebration of light, specifically fire; bonfires, wheels of fire rolled down hills, ritual fire, the ashes of which were scattered over the fields to protect them and make them fertile. The old customs prevailed into the Christian era, and thus the celebration of St. John's Eve, the day before his nativity. The Church celebrates only three nativities: Christ, his Blessed Mother, and St. John the Baptist. Perhaps the Eastern Church honors his greatness best of all in the hierarchical structure of their iconography, as seen in the Deisis of the Iconostasis: Christ flanked by St. John Baptist and The Blessed Virgin Mary.
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Midsummer madness...

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"As the Church appropriated and consecrated each of the pagan feasts in turn, it was inevitable that this unrestrained celebration of tumescence and fertility should be hastened into the fold: it is one of the oldest feasts introduced into both Greek and Latin liturgies to honour a saint. In keeping with the benevolent spirit of the season, the day settled on is one of the very few saint's days to mark the anniversary of the birth, rather than the death, of its namesake, John the Baptist. While solstice can technically occur anywhere between June 20 - 26th, the Christian holy day is fixed at June 24th (although, in the old way, festivities are celebrated the night before, or St. John's Eve). The precursor to Christ, it was John who baptized Jesus in the River Jordan -- for which service Jesus referred to him as: "A burning and shining light." Accordingly, the Church could in good conscience instruct congregations to light their Midsummer fires as they had always done -- if only they would turn their thoughts to St. John instead of the sun. But churchmen would find this ancient root particularly difficult to eradicate, and so the holiday continues to flourish across Europe, disguised in a threadbare Christian cloak. In the Scandinavian countries solstice is an official public holiday, celebrated for convenience' sake, on the Saturday nearest the 23rd. After the collapse of Soviet occupation, Estonia decriminalized bonfires and restored June 23rd as a national holiday. Midsummer has never really captured New World imaginations, and Hallowe'en very much remains our premier "pagan" feast." - Source

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Coincidence? I just finished this post and thought 'I think I'll check to see if anyone else posted on this... now who would be most likely? Elena!' So I clicked on Tea at Trianon, and sure enough - she posted on Midsummer Eve. Read it here.

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