Publié le : 2022-06-15 18:30:00
Catégories : Religious News
In a few days, on 24 June, we will celebrate the feast of St John. Celebrating the birth of St John the Baptist, this date has a much deeper meaning. In fact, before the arrival of Christianity, this feast marking the summer solstice was always celebrated. A parallel can be drawn with the feast of St John the Evangelist, celebrated on 27 December, which corresponds to the winter solstice.
Regardless of the symbolism of each of these two feasts, we return to the origins of Christianity, a religion that took up already existing cults, but above all a religion that accompanied an essentially agricultural people.
The name of St John the Baptist announces his role in the history of Christianity. A history that is also closely linked to that of his cousin Jesus of Nazareth. He spent his whole life announcing the arrival of the 'true light', the arrival of the word-light behind which St John the Baptist vanished. He knows that he represents a transition between the old world described by the Old Testament and the new world of the New Testament. John the Baptist is seen as the last prophet of the Old Testament: he closes the old law and announces the arrival of the Kingdom of God by baptising pilgrims with water from the Jordan.
The birth of John the Baptist, son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, has a special place in liturgical tradition. No child had blessed their union, despite all their desires to have a son. Thus Elizabeth's pregnancy appears as a gift from God. It is announced by the angel Gabriel to Elizabeth and then to Mary during the annunciation.
The Gospels focus on the birth of John the Baptist. The choice of the name John goes against family tradition. Furthermore, Zechariah expresses his doubts about the announcement of this pregnancy by the angel Gabriel and loses his voice. After several months of silence until the birth of his son, he regains his voice.
In this context, the choice of the name John: 'God is gracious' is a cry from Elizabeth's heart, filled with God's grace in her old age. God is gracious to Zechariah and Elizabeth: he gives them the gift of what they most desired in the world.
Throughout his life, John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus, announces the coming of Jesus, the coming of new times, John announces that God is gracious to his people by announcing the coming of the son of God. Symbolically, he asks the pilgrims who have come to listen to his preaching to immerse themselves in the living water of the River Jordan, to demonstrate their willingness to prepare themselves to welcome these new times.
Jesus himself will come to listen to John the Baptist in the desert and be baptised by his cousin. The latter wants nothing more than to step aside to make room for him. John the Baptist was also one of the first martyrs of Christianity, as the governor of Judea, Herod Antipas, demanded the head of John the Baptist. The memory of this martyrdom is celebrated by the Church every year on 29 August.
John, son of Zebedee, was one of Jesus' disciples and apostles. In the Gospels he is described as the one 'whom Jesus loved'. The Gospel of Saint John is attributed to him, which is why he is also called John the Evangelist. In the texts of Revelation he is sometimes equated with John of Patmos, the true author of this later text.
The Gospel of St John is clearly different from the other three Gospels according to Luke, Mark and Matthew, the so-called Synoptic Gospels. In his Gospels, John gives a special view of knowledge and light. He wants to emphasise the deeper meaning of Jesus' words and life.
The very special way in which the Gospels of Jesus Christ begin is a testimony full of meaning and universal scope.
In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
In the beginning he was with God. Through him all things were created and without him nothing was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men;
the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not stop it.
There was a man sent from God; his name was John.
He came as a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all might believe through him.
John stands out from the beginning of his writings to announce the return of the Light. This is the significance of the feast of St John the Evangelist on 27 December. In the darkest part of winter, when the nights are longest, the days get longer and announce the arrival of better times, the return of light.
Long before the birth of Christ, the longest day of the year was celebrated.
The celebration of the arrival of the summer season originates from the sun cult celebrated since antiquity. European peoples, such as the Slavs and Celts, and the peoples of the fertile crescent, such as the Phoenicians and Syrians, celebrated a great festival in honour of the God of abundance of plants and livestock. This, as is the case today for the traditional feast of St John, began the evening before.
In Europe, this day of the summer light festival was already characterised by large fires, with which certain rituals were associated: the ash from the midsummer fires preserved crops from lightning storms, lovers jumping over fires saw their love last all year round.
The significance of the winter solstice is the return of light. From this date, the days will become longer and light will triumph over night. It is the return of life with the announcement of spring that will allow all plants to be reborn and all animal life to be reborn.
On a more metaphysical level, the winter solstice is the symbol of nature's and man's ability to regain his regenerative energy. This regeneration occurs through inner forces, as the external environment is hostile. The winter solstice thus symbolises the blossoming of an inner light that is a source of life.
Many of the symbols recognised, celebrated and performed by pagan religions find a significant role in our Christian religion. Like the pagan religions that preceded it, the Christian religion has a solar symbolism that is found in many aspects of Christian celebrations and in our texts.
St John the Baptist announces the coming of Jesus and a new era and then disappears. The summer solstice celebrates the culmination of light, but it also announces a return to a cycle of decline, in the manner of St John the Baptist who soon disappears after announcing the arrival of the Kingdom of God.
The evangelist John mentions the victory of light over darkness in the first sentences of his Gospel. This is the symbolism of the winter solstice: the almighty night finally gives way to light. The winter solstice heralds the regeneration of nature and new times for people.
In our less agricultural age, St John's feasts are less celebrated, especially the winter solstice. However, St John's feasts still have real significance. In Catalonia, St John's Day in summer is an extremely popular celebration. In Quebec, St John's Day is even a holiday.
So, whatever meaning everyone attaches to St John's Day, these two dates undeniably remain festivals of light.