Friday, June 21, 2013

Of the summer Solstice and Saints

The traditional Midsummer Day of 24th June became St John the Baptists Birthday and feast in the early Christian world. John of course was the one sent to announce the coming of Jesus so here the 24th June parallels Christmas Eve on 24th December linking both Roman Solstice dates to the coming of Jesus, announced at Midsummer born at Midwinter.

In Britain another significant Christian festival falls in this season on 22nd June, the martyrdom of St Alban, Britain’s first recorded Christian Martyr. Alban lived in the Roman city of Verulamuim and gave shelter around 250 AD to a Christian missionary having himself become a follower of Jesus. This was a time that the 

Christian faith was suppressed by Roman authorities and so Roman Soldiers came seeking the missionary. Alban allowed him to escape by pretending to be the missionary giving himself up. We cannot know his reasons, though this was very brave to do as it lead to certain death. Perhaps he realized that just as he had found hope in that missionary’s message others would too and offering his own life would enable that to happen again and perhaps again and again.

As is so often the case Christian, Pagan and seasonal themes weave together. The Summer Solstice is a point of balance between increase and decrease. The time when the growth of the year looks forward to Harvest. A time of hope looking forward but also often in some cultures of fear leading to sacrifices to ensure the harvest as the year began from this point dwindles. So John the Baptist the Lord who comes in Summer says of Jesus the Lord who comes in winter ‘I must decrease that he may increase’. And yet Alban’s severed head, echoing a common theme in early British and Celtic saints, rolls down the hill and new life in a sacred well springs up, naming the street there to this day Holywell hill. 

adapted from " fullnes of life in mid summer" an article on the communities of the mystic Christ web site

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