The liturgical hours for the Nativity of John the Baptist--starting with tonight's evening prayer I--contain a string of antiphons which, read straight through, provide in themselves an excellent devotional on the conception, birth, and mission of the "greatest man born of woman". Reading ahead to the antiphons for tomorrow's vespers reminded me of why there is a traditional custom of lighting bonfires on this night: John was like a brilliantly shining light, says the third antiphon. Not to mention the daily repeated Benedictus where Zechariah, the prophet of the prophet, calls his little baby a light to reveal You to the nations.
Of course, the bonfires predate the Baptist. It's one of those pagan customs co-opted by the Church when she co-o