Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Feast of St. Philip and St. James

Today the church remembers Saint Philip and Saint James, Apostles.

The apostle Philip was from Bethsaida and was one of the Twelve. He is mentioned in all four gospels and figures prominently in two episodes in the Lord's ministry. In the first, the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Philip's very practical nature shows through (see John 6:5-14). The other episode is the gospel lesson for this feast (see John 14:6-14). He should not be confused with Philip, Deacon and Evangelist, who is mentioned in the fifth and eighth chapters of Acts.

James the Less, son of Alphaeus, was one of the Twelve also. He should not be confused with either James, the son of Zebedee (see July 25), or James, the Lord's brother (see October 23). His agnomen "the less" may imply a small stature or youthfulness. He is mentioned only four times in Holy Scripture, and then briefly or in a list, so we know very little about him.

Philip and James are little more than names to us today. One cannot imagine their being saddened by this fact, since this community and the Christ it knows lives on. "For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Corinthians 4:5).

Why do we celebrate the feasts of St. Philip and St. James the Less on the same day? Because they were both apostles? No, we celebrate them on the same day because their relics were brought to Rome together on the same day in early May. They rest there still, in the Basilica of the Holy Apostles.

You may be wondering why this apostle James is called “the Lesser.” It is to distinguish him from the other apostle, James, the son of Zebedee, the brother of John, and the one known as “James the Greater,” whose feast day is July 25. It’s not meant to belittle or deride. James the lesser was, after all, chosen by Jesus Christ to be one of the twelve pillars of the Church. It’s a bit like calling one James “Jamie” to distinguish him from another James in the household. We find him listed in the gospels as James the son of Alphaeus.

James was martyred in Jerusalem around Passover during the time Nero was Emperor of Rome. He was arrested and ordered to stand atop a wall in Jerusalem and preach against Christ. James climbed the wall as ordered and then preached the death and resurrection of Christ. Soldiers threw him off the wall. When the fall did not kill him, they began to stone him until he died, a faithful follower of the Christ who called him.

We know Philip best from the Gospel of John, chapter one. Jesus himself calls Philip, saying, “Follow me.” And Philip did follow. He heard the call Jesus issues to each of us and followed. Then Philip began to call others. He told Nathanael, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets. Jesus son of Joseph from Galilee.”

Nathanael is underwhelmed. He asks, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Philip doesn’t argue or try to top his friend’s flippant remark. He simply says, “Come and see,” trusting that all who come and see will discover the Lord.

Philip was killed in Greece under the reign of the Roman emperor, Domitian. Tradition says he was crucified upside down, like James, a faithful follower of the One who called him.

In our own time, Christian martyrdom is at an all time high: Rome’s Trevi Fountain Illuminated for Christian Martyrs.

Almighty God, who gave to your apostles Saint Philip and Saint James grace and strength fearlessly to bear testimony to the truth: Grant that we, being always mindful of their victory of faith, may learn like them to overcome the world, and glorify the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Read the Wikipedia article here.

Almighty God, who gave to your apostles Philip and James grace and strength to bear witness to the truth: Grant that we, being mindful of their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Today the church remembers Saint Philip and Saint James, Apostles.

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