Ordinary Time: June 23rd
Thursday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time
Old Calendar: Vigil of St. John the Baptist; St. Ethelreda, virgin (Hist) ; Other Titles: Johannisnacht
According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the Vigil of St. John the Baptist. The Birth of St. John the Baptist is a solemnity, and so observance still begins with Evening Prayer I in the Liturgy of the Hours of the preceding day. The liturgical day is from midnight to midnight in the Church's observance, except for Sunday and solemnities which begin with the evening of the preceding day.Historically today is also the feast of St. Ethelreda the most popular of Anglo-Saxon women saints. She lived in the early era of the Germanic invasion of Britain.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John
Whom, my brethren, can we conceive to have such majestic and severe sanctity as the Holy Baptist? He had a privilege which reached near upon the prerogative of the Most Blessed Mother of God; for, if she was conceived without sin, at least without sin he was born. She was all-pure, all-holy, and sin had no part in her: but St. John was in the beginning of his existence a partaker of Adam's curse: he lay under God's wrath, deprived of that grace which Adam had received, and which is the life and strength of human nature. Yet as soon as Christ, his Lord and Savior, came to him, and Mary saluted his own mother, Elizabeth, forthwith the grace of God was given to him, and the original guilt was wiped away from his soul. And therefore it is that we celebrate the nativity of St. John; nothing unholy does the Church celebrate; not St. Peter's nor St. Paul's, nor St. Augustine's, nor St. Gregory's, nor St. Bernard's, nor St. Aloysius's, nor the nativity of any other Saint, however glorious, because they were all born in sin. She celebrates their conversions, their prerogatives, their martyrdoms, their deaths, their translations, but not their birth, because in no case was it holy.
- St. John's Birth marks the summer solstice. On the eve of this feast many countries have celebrated with bonfires. This is especially true in Ireland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. See the list of suggested activities to read more about this tradition.
- Read about St. John's Eve particularly in Ireland (note the link is a secular website).
- From the Germanic countries, here is some information on the Summer Solstice.
Etheldreda was the daughter of Anna, King of East Anglia and the sister of Erconwald, Ethelburga, Sexburga and Withburga, all saints. Etheldreda was born in Exining, Suffolk, and was married at an early age to Tonbert, Prince of the Gyrwe, but they agreed to live in perfect chastity. As part of the marriage settlement she received from her husband an estate called Ely.
- Read this account of the life of St. Ethelreda.