Theologian's Almanac for Week of June 23, 2019
Welcome to SALT’s “Theologian’s Almanac,” a weekly selection of important birthdays, holidays, and other upcoming milestones worth marking - specially created for a) writing sermons and prayers, b) creating content for social media channels, and c) enriching your devotional life.
For the week of Sunday, June 23:
June 23 is Midsummer Night or “Midsummer Eve,” a time of revelry also known as St. John’s Eve, the day before John the Baptist’s birthday. St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers, and this time of year, many beehives are brimming with honey. In fact, this month’s full moon has historically been called “the Mead Moon,” since honey was gathered and fermented to make mead - hence the term, “honeymoon.” In a time when the essential work of bees and other pollinators is increasingly appreciated, even as bee populations are in alarming decline, celebrating St. John - who lived in the wilderness, preaching justice and eating “wild honey” (Matthew 3:4) - is more important than ever.
June 24 is also the birthday of St. John of the Cross, the mystic and poet born in Spain in 1542. He grew up in an impoverished family, and in his youth worked at a hospital for the destitute in order to contribute to his household’s income. Eventually, with St. Theresa, he sought to reform the Carmelite order - and was arrested and publicly punished for his efforts. He wrote poetry in prison, however, and today is widely considered one of Spain’s greatest poets; among his most famous works are “Spiritual Canticle” and “Dark Night of the Soul.” The patron saint of mystics, contemplatives, and Spanish poets, St. John wrote, “They can be like the sun, words. / They can do for the heart what light can for a field.”
June 27 is the birthday of poet Lucille Clifton, born in 1936 near Buffalo, New York, the daughter of a steelworker and a laundress. Lucille’s mother, Thelma, was a gifted poet herself - but Lucille’s father forbid her from writing, and forced Thelma to throw her poems into the fire. Lucille later wrote:
she is standing by
glisten like rubies.
her hand is crying.
her hand is clutching
a sheaf of papers.
she gives them up.
jewels into jewels.
her eyes are animals.
each hank of her hair
is a serpent's obedient
she will never recover.
remember. there is nothing
you will not bear
for this woman's sake.
And here’s Clifton herself, reading her classic poem about Jesus, “Spring Song.”
June 27 is also the birthday of Helen Keller, born in Alabama in 1880. When she was just shy of her second birthday, she was struck by an illness that left her both deaf and blind. And though she’s primarily known today as an inspirational figure who overcame adversity, she devoted her energies largely to improving the lives of others. Keller joined the International Workers of the World in 1912, visiting workers in appalling conditions. “I have visited sweatshops, factories, crowded slums,” she said. “If I could not see it, I could smell it.” She also fought for women’s suffrage, protested against World War I, and was one of the inaugural members of the American Civil Liberties Union. She wrote, “To one who is deaf and blind the spiritual world offers no difficulty. Nearly everything in the natural world is as vague, as remote from my senses, as spiritual things seem to the minds of most people. But the inner or mystic sense, if you like, gives me vision of the unseen. . . My mystic world is lovely with trees and clouds and stars and eddying streams I have never ‘seen.’”
June 28 is the fiftieth anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City, now considered a galvanizing and symbolic event in the struggle for LGBTQ rights. Police raided the Stonewall Inn bar, on the pretext that they were selling alcohol without a liquor license - but it was the third raid in a row on a Greenwich Village gay bar, and this time, the outraged patrons didn’t disperse, but rather gathered on the street and actively resisted the police. The ensuing chaos lasted five days, and inspired activism around the country. On the first anniversary of the uprising, the inaugural gay pride parades were held in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.
In honor of Pride Month, here’s an essay by Rev. Andrew Daughtery, “It’s past time for the Church to embrace the Rainbow Christ.”
June 28 is also the feast day of St. Irenaeus, the second-century Bishop of Lyons, who famously wrote, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”