March 20, 2007


Here in the eastern United States, spring arrives later on this evening.

This means first of all that Easter is near, coming as it does (more or less) on the Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox.

The vernal equinox also means it's time for the feast of the Annunciation--the conception of the Lord--when the Light begins to grow and the darkness starts to fade away. When the Light is reborn anew nine months later at the winter solstice, then it will be time for Christmas.

Exactly opposite Christmas in the liturgical calendar is the nativity of John the Baptist, arriving at the summer solstice, when the light begins to give way to the night. As John said, "he must increase and I must decrease."

Oddly enough, even though it's a big deal in Luke, the conception of John the Baptist doesn't show up as a feast day in what would be its place, around the autumnal equinox. Was this ever a feast day? Or is it in other calendars? Maybe somebody knows. Not that there aren't feast days around the fall equinox: St. Matthew, the Exaltation of the Cross, and, of course, the Stigmata of Francis.


ben said...

The reason that the conception of John is not celebrated is because he was not yet a Saint at his conception.

There are only 3 birthdays on the Universal Calendar--The Lord, Mary and John. Tradition (although it is not unanimous in the case of John) teaches us that these 3 were all born without sin. It was beleived by most of the fathers that John was baptised in the womb at the Visitation. If he had sin, the argument goes, how could he have been filled with the Holy Spirit? So although his miraculous conception is not on the calendar, the far more important Visitation when John was cleansed from sin and became a saint is on the calendar. However, since Mary giving one of the earliest examples of truly Christian charity at the Visitation, the liturgical emphasis is on her.

One of the better reforms of the 1970 missal was to move the Visitation from July 2 to May 31, so that it now falls between the Annunciation and the Nativity of John.

ben said...

As for the Atumnal Equinox, the Exaultation of the Cross on Sept 14th, is close, but certanly not tied to the day the way Christmas, annunciation and the Nativity of John are tied to the motions of the Sun.

There was also the miracle on September 17th 1224, which may have been on the Atumnal Equinox. I can't find a resource, but it would have been within a few days in any case.

Charles of New Haven said...

Thanks Ben; I knew there would be some erudite soul out there who could complete my dilettantish reflection!