This past Saturday was the Summer Solstice. For the Northern Hemisphere this is the longest day of the year. Now I don’t mean that it is any longer than 24 hours, I mean that the day-time hours, the amount of time when the Northern Hemisphere is lit up by the sun, is the longest of any day of the year. This means the night-time hours are the shortest.
This phenomenon is caused by the tilting of the Earth’s axis. The North pole is tilted ~23° towards the Sun. This puts the Northern Hemisphere closer to the Sun and the Southern Hemisphere farther away. This small tilt is what controls our seasons.
In this year of 2020, this longest day happened on June 20th. (The date varies between the 20th -22nd each year) In the winter we will have the Winter Solstice. This will be the exact opposite, when the Southern Hemisphere is tilted ~23° towards the Sun and the Northern Hemisphere has long nights and short days. The Winter Solstice for this year will take place on December 21st.
For the Northern Hemisphere, the amount of time spent in light will slowly decrease from June 20th to December 21st. Then the amount of time spent in light will slowly increase each day from December back to the Summer Solstice in June of next year.
Last night as I was attending Mass, an interesting tidbit about the Catholic faith was pointed out to me by the priest during his homily. Most of the time we celebrate Saints on the anniversary of the day of their death, but there are three important BIRTHS that we celebrate. The first is Jesus on Christmas, December 25th. The second is Mary on September 8th. The third is St. John the Baptist, and the Solemnity of the Nativity of his birth is celebrated today, June 24th.
This very intelligent priest pointed out that it was no coincidence that John the Baptist’s birthday falls so near the Summer Solstice. It is all too fitting that his fell then and Jesus’ birth fell very near the Winter Solstice.
For in the gospel of John, chapter 3, some of John the Baptist’s followers are complaining to him that some people are following Jesus instead of him. It is at this point that he reminds his followers that he is not the Christ. He goes on to say that, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
SO HOW FITTING is it that there is great light at John the Baptist’s birth, but it slowly decreases until Jesus comes to light the world. Then once Christ is here the light begins to increase.
The beauty of creation in things like this is just awe inspiring to me. As I think about it I just lay on my couch, eyes closed with a smile on my face. God is so good.
But as I sit here thinking about this beautiful choice by God, I think about what it teaches us. We must follow the example of St. John the Baptist. We must decrease and God must increase in our lives. This is how we are to live our lives and to fulfill God’s mission for us.
Right now we are stuck at home. We can’t do all the things we used to; we can’t see all the people that we used to. What are we doing with all of this extra time? I know it is a real temptation to think of ourselves. This can look like the temptation to overindulge in physical desires like junk food and lounging around. OR it can very easily turn into the temptation of only thinking of ourselves above everything and everyone else. “Why can’t I go get my hair cut?” “Why do I have to wear a mask?” “Why can’t I go to work?” “Why are people so angry and protesting?”
Both of these temptations are things that we fall to from time to time. But right now, today, we must make the choice to be as John the Baptist. We must decrease, and Christ must increase. Say it again, WE MUST DECREASE, and CHRIST MUST INCREASE.
How in your life can you do this? This is going to look different for each person. When are you thinking of yourself when you could allow Christ in to help you think of others above your own needs? Spend some time in prayer reflecting on this. The more that we can allow Christ to infiltrate every aspect of our lives, to help us think of others before ourselves, the more opportunities we give Christ to influence other lives through us. Christ wants us to be a part of His work. We must decrease so that He can really use us. What does that look like in your life this day?