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Posted By: amberpep St. John's Fire - 06/24/10 03:22 PM
I am a member of a Western Antiochian Orthodox Church and tonight we will be celebrating the Nativity of St. John the Baptist who is our Patron Saint. At the end of the service, we are all to go outside for the lighting of St. John's Fire. I have searched everywhere and cannot find what is done during this particular portion of the service.
Can someone please enlighten me?
Many thanks,
abby
Posted By: JBenedict Re: St. John's Fire - 06/25/10 12:36 AM
The following is from Fr. Weber's English translation (with commentary) of the Roman Ritual (pre-Vatican II) "Blessing of a Bonfire", which is set in the books for the Vigil (yesterday) of the Feast of the Nativity St. John the Baptist (today). Your tradition may be different.

Source: http://www.ewtn.com/library/prayer/roman2.txt

16. BLESSING OF A BONFIRE

on the Vigil of the Birthday of St. John the Baptist

conferred by the clergy outside of church

In the Church's veneration of her saints the cult of John the
Baptist had from earliest times and continues to have a most
prominent and honored place. John gave testimony of the true
light that shines in the darkness, although he proclaimed in
utter humility: "He must increase, but I must decrease." And the
Master also spoke in highest praise of His precursor: "I say to
you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet
than John the Baptist." Attuned to the words of the Gospel the
Christians of former times were filled with love and enthusiasm
for this saint, and expressed a justifiable conviviality at the
approach of his feastday by lighting a bonfire the night before
in front of their churches, in the market-place, on the hilltops,
and in the valleys. The custom of St. John bonfires, indicative
of a people with unabashed and childlike faith, continues in some
places to this day.

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.
Lord God, almighty Father, the light that never fails and the
source of all light, sanctify + this new fire, and grant that
after the darkness of this life we may come unsullied to you who
are light eternal; through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

The fire is sprinkled with holy water; after which the clergy and
the people sing the following hymn (for the music see the music
supplement):


Hymn: Ut queant laxis

O for your spirit, holy John, to chasten
Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen;
So by your children might your deeds of wonder
Meetly be chanted.

Lo! a swift herald, from the skies descending,
Bears to your father promise of your greatness;
How he shall name you, what your future story,
Duly revealing.

Scarcely believing message so transcendent,
Him for a season power of speech forsaketh,
Till, at your wondrous birth, again returneth,
Voice to the voiceless.

You, in your mother's womb all darkly cradled,
Knew your great Monarch, biding in His chamber,
Whence the two parents, through their offspring's merits,
Mysteries uttered.

Praise to the Father, to the Son begotten,
And to the Spirit, equal power possessing,
One God whose glory, through the lapse of ages,
Ever resounding.

P: There was a man sent from God.
All Whose name was John.

Let us pray.
God, who by reason of the birth of blessed John have made this
day praiseworthy, give your people the grace of spiritual joy,
and keep the hearts of your faithful fixed on the way that leads
to everlasting salvation; through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.
Posted By: JBenedict Re: St. John's Fire - 06/25/10 12:40 AM
The hymn translation is a poetic one for singing, which reorders the words.
Posted By: amberpep Re: St. John's Fire - 06/25/10 01:32 AM
Thank you so much JBenedict .... I really appreciate the time you took to explain it to me. Admittedly, probably from being a former Evangelical, it feels rather paganistic. All the things I found on-line, which were very limited, eluded to the words pagan and cult. In fact, the most information I found was on an Astrology site (gulp!).
Oh my .....
abby
Posted By: Fr. Deacon Thomas Re: St. John's Fire - 06/25/10 04:27 AM
Other than the New Fire at the Paschal Vigil, the only liturgical bonfire that I have ever blessed was a "burning of the greens" (Christmas trees and other decorations) at the close of the Epiphany liturgy.

I couldn't find a digital file of what I had used, meaning that it has been at least sixteen years since I last attempted that.

Usually January weather is very uncooperative; either frozen precip or dangerous winds....that's probably why I gave up.
Posted By: sielos ilgesys Re: St. John's Fire - 06/25/10 10:46 AM
One of the more "fun" things in Orthodoxy & Catholicism both is that they give children (and older people as well) a chance to play with fire in a controlled setting.

There is also the custom of leaping through the flames of the blessed St. John bonfire in order to obtain "good luck". I've always shied away from this practice...if you fall INTO the fire, you're outta luck. LOL

Catholic Lithuanians enthusiastically observe the custom of the St. John's bonfire.
Posted By: amberpep Re: St. John's Fire - 06/25/10 10:49 AM
Well, I've written to my Priest about this and expressed my concern and asked him if he would please explain it to me. I'm sure he will as he's a very kind, gentle, very open man.
abby
Posted By: Economos Romanos V. Russo Re: St. John's Fire - 06/25/10 11:35 AM
There is, of course, the Byzantine tradition of lighting a bonfire for the feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Holy, Precious and Life-giving Cross of the Lord on September 14. It recalls the story that as she travelled to Jerusalem from Rome the Empress St. Helena had dried wood piled on mountain and hilltops. When she discovered the Sacred Relics of the Holy Cross, she ordered the wood at Jerusalem set ablaze. It was seen by those at the next high point and they did likewise. It is said that the good news reached Rome in ten hours!
Posted By: Economos Romanos V. Russo Re: St. John's Fire - 06/25/10 11:40 AM
In addition there is the folk custom, observed in places as distant from each other as Southern Italy and Russia, to wait until the Nativity of the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John for recreational bathing. My grandfather's sister wouldn't even let us kids play in the sprinklers in the park until June 24 because "St. John puts the 'hot' in the water."
Posted By: PeterPeter Re: St. John's Fire - 06/25/10 02:57 PM
Originally Posted by amberpep
Thank you so much JBenedict .... I really appreciate the time you took to explain it to me. Admittedly, probably from being a former Evangelical, it feels rather paganistic. All the things I found on-line, which were very limited, eluded to the words pagan and cult. In fact, the most information I found was on an Astrology site (gulp!).
Oh my .....
abby

The shortest night in the year (or the longest day) was a popular pagan holiday. There are many other "baptized" pagan customs. There's nothing in principle wrong with that.
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