June 1, 2019

The Month of June in the Orthodox Church

By John Sanidopoulos

June is the sixth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars, the second of four months to have a length of 30 days, and the third of five months to have a length of less than 31 days. June contains the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the day with the most daylight hours, and the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, the day with the fewest daylight hours (excluding polar regions in both cases).

The Latin name for June is Junius. Ovid offers multiple etymologies for the name in the Fasti, a poem about the Roman calendar. The first is that the month is named after the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of marriage and the wife of the supreme deity Jupiter; the second is that the name comes from the Latin word iuniores, meaning "younger ones", as opposed to maiores ("elders") for which the preceding month May (Maius) may be named. Another source claims June is named after Lucius Junius Brutus, founder of the Roman Republic and ancestor of the Roman gens Junia. Though a marriage ceremony in the month of May was discouraged by the Romans, it was highly encouraged for the month of June.

In the Orthodox Church the moveable calendar comes to its conclusion in the month of June, and often within this month, being the period of the Pentecostarion, we will celebrate the Leavetaking of Easter, the Ascension of Christ, Pentecost and All Saints Day. The Ascension and Pentecost are both considered two of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church, therefore they are especially celebrated at this time. Because of Pentecost, which commemorates the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, on the Saturdays and Sundays that follow for about three weeks, we commemorate not only all the saints of the Church on one day (All Saints Day), but many local Churches also celebrate the saints associated with their lands and regions.

After the Sunday of Pentecost, there is no fasting for a week, since it is a time of feasting and joy. Because the Church as a protective Mother does not want her children to overindulge, however, and we forget our task at working towards our salvation, lest we think our salvation no longer needs to be cared for, and in order to preserve the gift of the Holy Spirit within us, a period of fasting begins once again a week after Pentecost. Today this period of fasting is known as the Apostle's Fast, because it ends on June 30th, which is the feast of the Twelve Apostles. It is not traditionally a rigorous fast, but the length does depend on when Pentecost is celebrated according to the moveable calendar. With the Julian Calendar this could leave as little as seven days for the fast, or even more than forty days. At one time this fast after Pentecost went as long as August, but today it has been significantly shortened. However, with the Revised Julian Calendar, this fast could last for many days as well, but it could also be wiped out altogether, which is something unfortunate that has not been remedied.

The three biggest feasts of the immovable calendar in the month of June are the Birth of St. John the Baptist on June 24th, the Apostles Peter and Paul on June 29th, and the Twelve Apostles on June 30th. The Birth of St. John the Baptist falls nine months plus a day after his Conception which is celebrated on September 23rd. It marks the birth of the "greatest among men" who was to prepare the way for the gospel message of the Lord. The Apostles Peter and Paul are seen by the Church as the Foremost or Leaders of the Apostles, the pillars upon which the Church stands. Through the Twelve Apostles the gospel of Christ was brought throughout the world. Indeed, it is with the feast of the Twelve Apostles that the Paschal season comes to end, for their transformations and missions and martyrdoms accomplished the work of Easter and were its fruit, and they made the Sunday of All Saints possible.

In addition to all these feasts, we also celebrate many saints on the daily calendar of the Church, the most popular of which are St. Justin the Philosopher (June 1); St. Kalliopi (June 8); St. Cyril of Alexandria (June 9); Sts. Bartholomew and Barnabas the Apostles (June 11); St. Onouphrios of Egypt (June 12); St. Peter the Athonite (June 12); St. Akylina (June 13); Holy Prophet Eisha (June 14); Holy Prophet Amos (June 15); St. Augustine of Hippo (June 15); St. Jude the Apostle (June 19); St. Paisios the Great (June 19); St. Nicholas Cabasilas (June 20); St. Athanasios of Paros (June 24); St. Febronia (June 25); St. David the Dendrite of Thessaloniki (June 26); St. Sampson the Hospitable (June 27); St. Joanna the Myrrhbearer (June 27).

It is not by coincidence that the Birth of St. John the Baptist coincides with the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year and every day after the darkness of the night increases. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Christ so that He could reveal Himself among the Jews. "He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light" (Jn. 1:8). Likewise it is no coincidence that the Birth of Jesus coincides with the winter solstice, which is the longest night of the year and every day after the light of the day increases. For "in Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn. 1:4, 5). With Christ comes the light, while with John we remain in darkness until the coming of Christ. As John himself said: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn. 3:30). Even so, with the summer solstice in the month of June, light decreases to make way for the light which will begin to increase after the winter solstice.

With all this in mind, the month of June is a time of conclusions and new beginnings. The work and celebration of Easter is over, and now we have a new mission. This begins by becoming temples of the Holy Spirit, to be counted among the saints of the Church. In June we have many saints to imitate, in fact we have all of them to imitate, and by imitating them, we imitate Christ Himself. By doing so, we are able to bring the light of the gospel of Christ throughout the world. June is thus an ideal time for the great marriage feast of the Church with her Bridegroom, Christ the Lord.