Reepham & Wensum Valley Team Churches - at the Heart of the Community

Words of Light and Hope for Midsummer from Bishop Tony Foottit

St. John Baptist’s birthday coincides with midsummer, six months before Christmas. John Baptist has
a whole genus of plants named in his honour. They are called St. John’s Worts. Botanists and
gardeners call them Hypericums (health plants). They are called St. John’s Worts because many of
them flower in midsummer, and the golden flowers capture the light of the sun. Jesus called his
cousin John a burning and a shining light. John’s great task was to prepare the way for his cousin
Jesus of Nazareth. John said of Jesus, He must increase and I must decrease and I am not worthy
even to undo his sandal-straps. It was John who pointed to Jesus and said, Behold the Lamb of God.
One hypericum is called perforated St. John’s wort. This is an example of the doctrine of signatures –
the idea that God put a message in plants to indicate what they were good for. When you hold a leaf
of this plant up to the light you will see that it appears to be perforated with little holes, so it must
be good for healing wounds. The best healing of all is forgiveness. John called people to repentance.
Another St. John’s Wort called Hypericum androsaemum is a shrub with golden flowers, broad leaves
and red berries. This plant has another name – tutsan, a form of toute-sainte – French for all-heal. Yet
another name for it is Bible Plant. A freshly picked leaf has no scent but put one in your Bible or
Prayer Book and after a few days it will transmit a pleasant scent like ambergris. The scent will
pervade the pages of the book; that itself is a lesson. Take a verse from the Bible. Read, mark, learn
and inwardly digest the words, and so let the scent of them pervade your life. Androsaemum means
of man’s blood. In the autumn the red berries turn black which is characteristic of blood. At the
heart of the gospels is the cross on which the blood of Jesus poured out his blood for our healing.
Like many midsummer flowers Tutsan was used to ward off evil spirits. They say there are lots of
goblins and fiends and imps about on Midsummer Eve. They are the personifications of mischief,
squabbles and petty jealousies that bedevil mankind. John, Jesus said, was no reed shaken by the
wind. In no uncertain terms John advocated generosity, fairness, and contentment.