The Summer Solstice

Since the beginning of the year when our story began the sun has been climbing higher and higher in the sky each day. Each day the sun rises farther northward in the east, and sets farther northward in the west. The days are getting longer and brighter and warmer.

On June 21 we reach the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. On this day the sun rises farthest northward, the sun climbs to its highest point in the sky, and then sets farthest northward in the west. It is the beginning of Summer, a period of bright, sunny, warm, and wonderful weather.

It is at this point in the Jesus Story that we have the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus goes up a high mountain, the highest point Jesus reaches in the story, and shines brighter than ever, the brightest he shines in the whole story. "His face shone like the sun." (Matthew 17:1-13)

18. The sun reaches the Summer Solstice.
Jesus has his transfiguration.

Jesus brings with him Peter, James, and John, and at the mountain top they meet Moses and Elijah. For an interesting aside about Elijah and Moses on the Transfiguration see commentary by Bishop John Shelby Spong.

The Summer Solstice is a turning point in our story. Up to now everything has been getting better and better. But from this day forward the sun starts slipping southward again. The sun can not escape its ultimate fate. The sun will continue slipping southward, Autumn will come, and the sun will eventually die in the cold dark of the Winter Solstice on December 22, to be resurrected again three days later, on December 25—Christmas day. This turning point is the first time we may think about the eventual death of the sun—it's ultimate fate in winter.

Jesus first predicts his death just before the Transfiguration (Matthew 16:21-28). Peter says, "Never Lord! This shall never happen to you!" That is, everything is wonderful right now, let's just have it this way always and forever. But the sun can not remain at it's highest point forever. If it did there would be no seasons of the year and no harvest cycle. We rely on the harvest for our food, without which we would die.

And just as the sun can not escape it's fate, so too Jesus, a personification of the sun, can not escape his fate, as he begins to tell us at this point in the story.

But that is all a long way off. For now all is happy and wonderful. It's summer time, and thoughts of the sun's ultimate death in winter are easily dismissed. It's just too good a time right now. Even though Jesus is now on his way to Jerusalem, where he predicts he will die, it's still a happy story up to this point. Jesus hasn't encountered any problems yet. Indeed, the happiest point in his story is about to occur.

PREV          NEXT