Today is the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist, and today is also Midsummer’s Day.
The Feast celebrating the birth of John the Baptist is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church, being listed by the Council of Agde, France in 506 as one of that region’s principal festivals, where it was a day of rest and, like Christmas, was celebrated with three Masses: a vigil Mass, at Mass at dawn, and a midday Mass. The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 24th comes three months after the celebration on March 25th of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel told Our Lady that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus. The question naturally arises as to why the celebration falls on June 24th rather than June 25th if the date is to be precisely six months before Christmas. It has often been claimed that the Church authorities wanted to “Christianize” the pagan solstice celebrations and for this reason advanced Saint John’s feast as a substitute. This explanation is questionable because in the Middle Ages the solstice took place around the middle of June due to the inaccuracy of the Julian calendar; it was only in 1582, through the Gregorian calendar reform, that the solstice returned to June 20th / June 21th / June 22nd where it had been in the fourth century. Therefore, a more likely reason why the festival falls on June 24th lies in the Roman way of counting, which proceeded backward from the Kalends (first day) of the succeeding month. Christmas was “the eighth day before the Kalends of January” (Octavo Kalendas Januarii). Consequently, Saint John’s Nativity was put on the “eighth day before the Kalends of July” (Octavo Kalendas Quintilis). Since June has only thirty days, in our present (Germanic) way of counting, the feast thus falls on June 24th. Nevertheless, the significance of the feast falling around the time of the solstice is considered by many to be significant, recalling the words of John the Baptist with regard to Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). (Of course, this only applies in the Northern Hemisphere, so it’s a good thing that both John the Baptist and Jesus were born in Judea and not in Christchurch, New Zealand.) Today is also Midsummer Day, which is celebrated around the world in different ways; the United States has celebrations in areas with large Swedish and Scandinavian populations, such as in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Lindsborg, Kansas. (Here in SouthWestCentral Louisiana, with its strong French Cajun influence, it’s just June, and hot outside, as usual.)
I posted to Facebook that today was Midsummer’s Day, and did my Book Devotional Reading. I then charged up my Bluetooth speaker. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading. Once again at ADR they had shredded lettuce at the salad bar; when I inquired, they said that no one wanted regular iceberg lettuce. (So much for my plans to eat healthy at ADR.) When we clocked in, Richard was on a Blackjack table, then was moved to the second Pai Gow table; when that table closed, he helped change Blackjack cards, and then ended up on Three Card Poker. I was the Relief Dealer for Mini Baccarat and Pai Gow, and later was made the dealer on Mini Baccarat, so that the dealer who had been on Mini Baccarat could be the Relief Dealer for Mini Baccarat and Pai Gow (to give him more experience on Pai Gow).
On our way home from work I read the June 6th, 2016 issue of Sports Illustrated. Once home I ate my lunch salad and read the morning paper; I then spent most of the rest of the afternoon on Ancestry.com. (It does not help that the family trees are chock full of Kelly’s on both sides.) Richard went to bed at about 2:30 pm, and after I watched Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm I came to the computer to do today’s Daily Update.
Tomorrow we have no Saints to honor; instead, we will recall that on tomorrow’s date in 1876 Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry rode to fight the Sioux in what later became known as The Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana. We will also recall that tomorrow is the anniversary of the death of my father in 1998. We will work our eight hours, and in the afternoon I will go to the Adoration Chapel to do my Weekly Hour of Eucharistic Adoration.
This Midsummer Day afternoon brings us a Parting Quote from Walter Browne, Australian-born chess Grandmaster and poker player. Born in 1949 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, to an American father and an Australian mother, his family moved to the New York area when he was three. Browne won the U.S. Junior Championship in chess in 1966. Having dual citizenship, he represented Australia for a short time. He won the 1969 Australian Chess Championship. He tied first with Renato Naranja while representing Australia at the 1969 Asian Zonal tournament in Singapore, earning the International Master title, which immediately earned him an invitation to an international grandmaster tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There he gained the Grandmaster title by tying for second through fourth places, with Bruno Parma and Arthur Bisguier, behind reigning world champion Boris Spassky. He played first board for Australia at the 1970 and 1972 Chess Olympiads, before moving to California in 1973, marrying, and switching to representing the United States in 1974. He won the U.S. Chess Championship six times. His six titles have been exceeded only by the eight titles of Bobby Fischer, all won outright by at least a point, and Samuel Reshevsky. Browne qualified for three Interzonal tournaments, but never came close to qualification for the Candidates Tournament. At the Manila Interzonal 1976, Browne won 15th place. At the Las Palmas Interzonal 1982, he placed last of 14 contestants.. Finally, at the Taxco Interzonal 1985, he reached a tied 9–13th place. Browne generally performed well at the Chess Olympiads in his six appearances. He represented Australia twice and the United States four times, winning a total of five medals, all bronze. Browne was a dominant presence in American chess in the 1970s and 1980s. Aside from his U.S. Championship wins, he also won the National Open eleven times, the American Open seven times, the World Open three times, and the U.S. Open Chess Championship twice (1971 and 1972). He tended to spend a lot of his allotted time during the opening moves and early middlegame; consequently he often wound up in time trouble. This sometimes led to mistakes, even though Browne played reasonably well in time trouble; and good play during this phase could unsettle his opponents. However, after dominating the U.S. Championship for a decade, Browne was unable to approach the same level in that event after 1983. In U.S. Championships, he scored just 7½/17 in 1984, 6½/13 in 1985, 6/15 in 1986, 6/13 in 1987, and 6/15 in 1989. A world-class speed chess player, Browne in 1988 formed the World Blitz Chess Association, but it ended in 2004 after encountering financial troubles. He won the 1991 Canadian Open Chess Championship. Browne was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 2003. He won the U.S. Senior Open in June 2005. In 2012 he published an autobiography and collection of his best games, The Stress of Chess … and its Infinite Finesse. In December 2014 he won the Pan-American Senior Championship 65+ age category held in São Paulo, Brazil. At the 2015 Las Vegas International Chess Festival on June 18th-21st, Browne also gave a 25-board simultaneous exhibition, a lecture series, and taught a chess camp. That same weekend, Browne took byes in the National Open so he could play in the 2015 Senior Event at the World Series of Poker. He played well, but did not win money. On June 22nd, 2015, Browne played in the 50th Anniversary National Open Chess Championship at the Westgate Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. He tied for 9th-15th. After a week of chess and poker, Browne died in his sleep (died 2015): “I’ve got the talent. All I need to do is persevere. And I will, because I’m concentrating all my energies on becoming world champion. I have this fantastic discipline to study chess six, eight, 10 hours a day, this drive to win at all costs short of physical violence. I got this aggression that never quits, this feeling of terrific power. I feel this big hot thing like the sun inside me. I’m not bragging. I really feel as if I can beat anybody at anything!”