Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southward again.
The human person discovers his dignity through his body and its capacity to express his ability to think and to choose, unlike the animals, who lack this ability.
(See Genesis -21.) Yet humanity is radically lacking in its expression in only one sex.
The late pope understood the impact of sin on the human person.
The Fall brings about a series of ruptures within the person, radically diminishing the body’s capacity to express reason and freedom.
The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times.
The concentration of the observance is not on the day as we reckon it, commencing at midnight or at dawn, as it is customary for cultures following lunar calendars to place the beginning of the day on the previous eve at dusk at the moment when the Sun has set.
The full meaning of the body and hence the human person is revealed only when the man stands over against another unique way of being human–woman.
This distinctive way of being a person and a gift for others, male and female, reflects what the late pope called “the nuptial meaning of the body.” Coming together in the profound partnership of marriage, man and woman live for the other in mutual love and deference.
These talks became known as “The Theology of the Body” and have had a growing impact on Christian thinking about what it means to be embodied as male or female.
Reflecting on the Genesis accounts of creation, Pope John Paul II underscored the way in which the body reflects or expresses the person.
Some choose to hold the rite on June 21, even when this is not the longest day of the year, and some celebrate June 24, the day of the solstice in Roman times.