May 11, 2022: SS. PHILIP & JAMES THE LESS
May 11, 2022: SS. PHILIP & JAMES (THE LESS), APOSTLES
Rank: Double of the II Class.
Have I been so long with you, and you know me not? O Philip, he that seeth me, seeth also my Father. Alleluia.
They cried out unto thee, O Lord, in their affliction: and thou didst hear them from heaven. Alleluia, Alleluia.
O God, who comfortest us by the yearly solemnity of thy Apostles Philip and James; grant, we beseech thee, that we may be instructed by their example, for whose merits we rejoice. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
Two of the favoured witnesses of our beloved Jesus' Resurrection come before us on this day of May. Philip and James are here, bearing testimony to us, that their Master is truly risen from the dead, that they have seen him, that they have touched him, that they have conversed with him (I St. John, i. 1), during these forty days. And, that we may have no doubt as to the truth of their testimony, they hold in their hands the instruments of the martyrdom they underwent for asserting that Jesus, after having suffered death, came to life again and rose from the grave. Philip is leaning upon the cross to which he was fastened, as Jesus had been; James is holding the club wherewith he was struck dead.
Philip preached the Gospel in the two Phrygias, and his martyrdom took place at Hierapolis. He was married when he was called by our Saviour; and we learn from writers of the second century, that he had three daughters, remarkable for their great piety,—one of whom lived at Ephesus, where she was justly revered as one of the glories of that early Church.
James is better known than Philip. He is called, in the sacred Scripture, Brother of the Lord, (Gal, i. 19) on account of the close relationship that existed between his own mother and the Blessed Mother of Jesus. He claims our veneration, during Paschal Time, inasmuch as he was favoured with a special visit from our Risen Lord, as we learn from St. Paul (I Cor, xv. 7). There can be no doubt, but what he had done something to deserve this mark of Jesus' predilection. St. Jerome and St. Epiphanius tell us, that our Saviour, when ascending into heaven, recommended to St. James' care the Church of Jerusalem, and that he was accordingly appointed the first Bishop of that City. The Christians of Jerusalem, in the 4th Century, had possession of the Chair on which St. James used to sit, when he assisted at the assemblies of the Faithful. St. Epiphanius also tells us, that the holy Apostle used to wear a lamina of gold upon his forehead, as the badge of his dignity. His garment was a tunic made of linen.
He was held in such high repute for virtue, that the people of Jerusalem called him "The Just;" and when the time of the Siege came, instead of attributing the frightful punishment, they then endured, to the deicide they or their fathers had committed, they would have it to be a consequence of the murder of James, who, when dying, prayed for his people. The admirable Epistle he has left us bears testimony to the gentleness and uprightness of his character. He there teaches us, with an eloquence of an inspired writer, that works must go along with our Faith, if we would be Just with that Justice, which makes us like our Risen Lord.
The bodies of Saints Philip and James repose in the Basilica of the Holy Apostles, at Rome. These Relics are counted as one of the richest treasures of the Holy City… For a long period, the Church of Rome kept special Feasts in honour of four only of the Apostles: SS. Peter and Paul, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Andrew (Peter's Brother): the rest were united in the solemnity of the 29th of June, and a vestige of this is still to be found in the Office of that Day… The reception of the Bodies of SS. Philip and James, which were brought from the East, somewhere about the 6th Century, gave rise to the institution of to-day's Feast; and this led gradually to the insertion into the Calendar of the special Feasts for the other Apostles and Evangelists.
Let us now read the brief account given of St. Philip in the Liturgy.
Philip was born at Bethsaida, and was one of the twelve Apostles that were first called by Christ our Lord. It was from Philip that Nathanael learned that the Messias had come who was promised in the Law; and by him also he was led to our Lord. We have a clear proof of the familiarity wherewith Philip was treated by Christ, in the fact of the Gentiles addressing themselves to this Apostle, when they wished to see the Saviour. Again, when our Lord was about to feed the multitude in the desert, he spoke to Philip, and said: “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” Having received the Holy Ghost, he went into Scythia, which was the country allotted to him, wherein to preach the Gospel; and he converted almost its entire people to the Christian Faith. Having, finally, reached Hierapolis, in Phrygia, he was crucified there for the name of Christ, and then stoned to death… The Christians buried his body in the same place; but it was afterwards taken to Rome, and, together with the body of the Apostle St. James, was placed in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles.
The Breviary then gives the two following Lessons upon St. James.
James, the brother of our Lord, was called "the Just." From his childhood, he never drank wine or strong drink; he abstained from flesh-meat; he never cut his hair, or used oil to anoint his limbs, or took a bath. He was the only one permitted to enter the Holy of Holies. His garments were of linen. So assiduous was he in prayer, that the skin of his knees was as hard as that of a camel. After Christ's Ascension, the Apostles made him Bishop of Jerusalem; and it was to him that the Prince of the Apostles sent the news of his being delivered out of prison by an Angel. A dispute having arisen in the Council of Jerusalem concerning the Mosaic Law and Circumcision, James sided with Peter, and, in a speech which he made to the Brethren, proved the Vocation of the Gentiles, and said that the absent Brethren were to be written to, and told not to impose the yoke of the Mosaic Law upon the Gentiles. It is of him that the Apostle speaks in his Epistle to the Galatians, when he says: But other of the Apostles I saw none, saving James, the brother of the Lord.
Such was James' holy life, that people used to strive with each other to touch the hem of his garment. At the age of ninety-six years,—of which he had spent thirty governing the Church of Jerusalem in the most saintly manner,—as he was one day preaching, with great courage, Christ the Son of God, he was attacked by stones being thrown at him; after which, he was taken to the highest part of the Temple, and cast headlong down. His legs were broken by the fall; and, as he was lying half dead upon the ground, he raised up his hands towards heaven, and thus prayed for his executioners: “Forgive them, O Lord! for they know not what they do.” Whilst thus praying, he received a blow on the head with a fuller's club, and gave up his soul to his God, in the seventh year of Nero's reign. He was buried near the Temple, from which he had been thrown down. He wrote a Letter, which is one of the seven Catholic Epistles.
Holy Apostles! you saw our Risen Jesus in all his glory. He said to you on the evening of that great Sunday: Peace be to you! He appeared to you during the forty days following, that he might make you certain of his Resurrection. Great indeed must have been your joy at seeing, once more, that dear Master, who had admitted you into the number of his chosen Twelve; and his return made your love of him more than ever fervent. We address ourselves to you as our special patrons during this holy Season, and most earnestly do we beseech you to teach us how to know and love the great mystery of our Lord's Resurrection. May our hearts glow with Paschal joy, and may we never lose the New Life that our Jesus has now given unto us.
Thou, Philip! wast all devoted to him, even from the first day of his calling thee. Scarcely hadst thou come to know him as the Messias, than thou announcedst the great tidings to thy friend Nathanael. Jesus treated thee with affectionate familiarity. When about to work the great miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, it was to thee that he addressed himself, and said to thee: Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? (St. John, vi. 5) A few days before the Passion of thy Divine Master, some of the Gentiles wished to see this great Prophet, of whom they had heard such wonderful things, and it was to thee they applied. How fervently didst thou not ask him, at the Last Supper, to show thee the Father! Thy soul longed for the divine Light; and when the rays of the Holy Ghost had inflamed thy spirit, nothing could daunt thy courage. As a reward of thy labours, Jesus gave thee to share with him the honours of the Cross. O holy Apostle! intercede for us, that we may imitate thy devotedness to Jesus; and that, when he deigns to send us the Cross, we may reverence and love it.
(Thou James the less,) We also honour thy love of Jesus, O thou that art called the Brother of the Lord, and on whose venerable features was stamped the likeness of this our Redeemer. If, like the rest of the Apostles, thou didst abandon him in his Passion, thy repentance was speedy and earnest, for thou wast the first, after Peter, to whom he appeared after his Resurrection. We affectionately congratulate thee, James, for the honour thus conferred upon thee; do thou, in return, obtain for us, that we may taste and see how sweet is our Risen Lord (Ps, xxxiii. 9). Thy ambition was to give him every possible proof of thy gratitude; and the last testimony thou didst bear, in the faithless City, to the Divinity of thy dear Master, (when the Jews took thee to the top of the Temple,) opened to thee, by Martyrdom, the way-that was to unite thee to him for eternity. Pray for us, O thou generous Apostle, that we, also, may confess his holy Name, with the firmness becoming his disciples; and that we may ever be brave and loyal in proclaiming his rights as King over all creatures.
O holy Apostles! we beseech you to unite your prayers, and intercede for the Churches of the East, to which you preached the Gospel. Have compassion on Jerusalem, the dupe of schism and heresy, the slave of the Infidel; obtain her purification and her liberty; and rid her Holy Places of the sacrileges that have so long polluted them. Lead back the Christians of Asia Minor to union with the Fold governed by the one supreme Pastor. And lastly, pray for Rome, the City where your bodies repose, awaiting their glorious Resurrection. In return for the long hospitality she has given you, shield her with your protection; and permit not, that the City of Peter,—your venerable Head,—should be (more) deprived of its grandest glory,—the presence of the Vicar of Christ.
Another account of St. Philip, Apostle.
St. Philip was of Bethsaida, in Galilee, and called by our Saviour to follow him (St. John, i. 43), the day after St. Peter and St. Andrew. He was at that time a married man, and had several daughters; but his being engaged in the married state hindered him not, as St. Chrysostom observes, from meditating continually on the law and the prophets, which disposed him for the important discovery of the Messias in the person of Jesus Christ, in obedience to whose command he forsook all to follow him, and became thenceforth the inseparable companion of his ministry and labours. Philip had no sooner discovered the Messias, than he was desirous to make his friend Nathanael a sharer in his happiness, saying to him: We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, that is, the Messias; Jesus, the son of Joseph, of Nazareth. Nathanael was not so ready to give his assent to this assertion of his friend, by reason that the supposed Messias was reported to be of Nazareth. Philip therefore desired him to come himself to Jesus and see; not doubting but, upon his personal acquaintance with the Son of God, he would be as much convinced of the truth as he was himself. Nathanael complied, and Jesus, seeing him approach, said, within his hearing: Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile. Nathanael asked him, how he came to know him: Jesus replied: Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee. Nathanael, as two holy fathers explain the matter, calling to mind that the closeness of his retirement on that occasion was such, that no human creature could see him, owned him hereupon for the Son of God, and the King of Israel, or, in other words, the Messiah, foretold by Moses and the prophets. The marriage at Cana of Galilee happening three days after, to which Jesus and his disciples were invited, St. Philip was present at it with the rest. The year following, when our Lord formed the college of apostles, Philip was appointed one of that number, and, from the several passages of the gospel, he appears to have been particularly dear to his divine Master. Thus, when Jesus was about to feed five thousand persons, who had followed him into the wilderness, for the greater evidence of the miracle, and for the trial of this apostle's faith; Jesus proposed to him the difficulty of feeding the multitudes in that desolate place (St. John, vi. 5). And a little before our Saviour's passion, certain Gentiles, desirous to see Christ, made their first address to Philip, and by him and St. Andrew obtained that favour. Our Saviour, in the discourse he made to his disciples immediately after his last supper, having promised them a more clear and perfect knowledge of his heavenly Father than they had had hitherto, St. Philip cried out, with an holy eagerness and impatience: Lord; shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. From which words our Saviour took occasion to inculcate afresh a steady belief of his divinity, and perfect equality with the Father, saying: So long a time have I been with you, (teaching you who I am both by my words and actions,) and have you not known me? (If you beheld me with the eyes of faith such as I really am, in seeing me you would see the Father also, because) I am in the Father, and the Father is in me (St. John, xiv.).
After our Lord’s ascension the gospel was to be preached to the whole world by a few persons, who had been eye-witnesses of his miracles, and were enabled, by the power of the Holy Ghost, to confirm their testimony concerning him by doing the like wonderful works themselves. That this might be accomplished, it was necessary that the disciples should quickly disperse themselves into all parts of the world. St Philip accordingly preached the gospel in the two Phrygias, as Theodoret and Eusebius assure us from undoubted monuments. St. Polycarp, who was only converted in the year 80, enjoyed his conversation for some time, consequently St. Philip must have lived to a very advanced age. It appears, from a passage of Polycrates, quoted by Eusebius, that he was buried at Hierapolis, in Phrygia, which city was indebted to his relicks for its preservation by continual miracles, as is averred by the author of the sermon on the twelve apostles, attributed St. Chrysostorm. An arm of St. Philip was brought from Constantinople to Florence, in 1204, whereof we have an authentic history in the Bollandists. The Orientals keep his festival on the fourteenth of November; the Latins on the first of May [transferred to 11th of May in 1955 by Pope Pius XII], with St. James. His body is said to be in the church of SS. Philip and James, in Rome, which was dedicated to God under their name, in 560. The emperor Theodosius, in a vision, received from St. John the Evangelist, and St. Philip, the assurance of victory over the tyrant Eugenius, the morning before the battle, in 394, as Theodoret relates.
From St. Philip we must particularly learn an ardent love of God, and desire to see the Father. He asked only this favour, because this was his only desire. Is it ours? Do we feel it so perfect as to extinguish all inordinate earthly affections and desires in our breasts? Do we employ the proper means to attain to this happy disposition? To obtain it, let us employ the succour of this apostle's prayers, and by disengaging our hearts from corruption and vanity, become, in desires and affections, citizens of heaven. The pilgrim soul sees herself a stranger here on earth, and discovers nothing in this desert place of her banishment, but an abyss of vanity, and subjects of compunction, grief, and fears. On the other side, looking up to God, she contemplates the magnificence and splendor of his kingdom, which will have no end; its peace, security, sanctity without stain, delights without sorrow, unchangeable and incomprehensible joys; and she cries out in a holy transport: “O joy surpassing all joys, and without which there is no true joy, when shall I possess you? O, sovereign good, discover to me some ray of thy beauty and of thy glory; may my heart be set on flame by thy love, and my soul languish and waste with desire to be united to thee, to behold thee face to face, to sing thy praises night and day, to drink of the plenty of thy house, and of the torrent of thy delights, to be forever confirmed in thy love, and in some measure transformed into thee!” Such a soul seeks to hide herself from the eyes of men, to live unknown to the world; and, in retirement and repose, to apply herself to prayer, all her thoughts being taken up in contemplating the glorious things which are said of the blessed city of her God. All worldly enjoyments and distractions are insupportable to her, and she finds no comfort in this place of banishment but in singing the praises of her God, in adoring and in doing always his will, and in the sweet sighs and tears with which she seeks him, and begs him to reign perfectly in her affections by his grace and love, and to draw her speedily to himself out of this Babylon, in which every object increases her affliction, and inflames her desire, seeming to say to her: ‘Where is thy God?’
Another account of St. James the Less, Apostle.
St. James, to distinguish him from the other apostle of the same name, the son of Zebedee, was called the Less; which appellation is supposed to have taken its rise, either from his having been called later to the apostleship than the former, or from the lowness of his stature, or from his youth. He is also known by the title of James the Just, a denomination all agree, with Hegesippus and St. Clement of Alexandria, to have been given on account of his eminent sanctity. He was the son of Alpheus and Mary, the sister of the Blessed Virgin, and seems to have been born some years before our Lord. Jesus came with his brethren, and probably St. James among the rest, to settle in Capharnaum, at the beginning of his ministry (St. John, ii. 12). James and his brother Jude were called to the apostleship in the second year of Christ's preaching, soon after the Pasch, in the year 31. He was favoured with an extraordinary apparition of his Master after his resurrection. Clement of Alexandria says, that Christ being risen from the dead, communicated the gift of science to SS. James the Just, John, and Peter, and that they imparted it to the other apostles. We are told by SS. Jerom and Epiphanius, that our Lord, at his ascension, recommended his church of Jerusalem to St. James; in consequence whereof the apostles, before their dispersion, constituted him bishop of that city. It was probably for a mark of his episcopal authority, and as an ensign of his dignity, that he wore on his head a lamine, or plate of gold, as is recounted by St. Epiphanius. Polycrates, quoted by Eusebius, testifies, that St. John did the same: others relate the like of St. Mark. It was probably done in imitation of the Jewish high-priest.
St. James governed that church in perpetual dangers, from the fury of the people and their violent persecutions; but his singular virtue procured him the veneration of the Jews themselves. As to his sanctity, Eusebius and St. Jerome give from Hegesippus the following account concerning him: “He was always a virgin, and was a Nazarite, or one consecrated to God. In consequence of which he was never shaved, never cut his hair, never drank any wine or other strong liquor; moreover, he never used any bath, or oil to anoint his limbs, and never eat of any living creature except when of precept, as the paschal lamb: he never wore sandals, never used any other clothes than one single linen garment. He prostrated so much in prayer, that the skin of his knees and forehead was hardened like to camels' hoofs.” St. Epiphanius says, that, in a great drought, on stretching out his arms to heaven, he, by his prayers, instantly obtained rain. His eminent sanctity made even the Jews style him the just man: and Origen observes, that Josephus himself gives him that epithet, though it is not to be found now in Josephus' works. The same reverence for his person procured him the privilege of entering at pleasure into the Sanctum or Holy place, namely, that part of the temple where none but the priests were allowed by the law to enter. St. Jerome adds, that the Jews strove, out of respect, who should touch the hem of his garment. In the year 51, he assisted at the council of the apostles, held at Jerusalem, about the observance of circumcision, and the other legal ceremonies of the law of Moses. Here, after having confirmed what St. Peter said, he devised the sentence which the apostles drew up on that occasion. This apostle being bishop of a church, which then chiefly consisted of Jewish converts, tolerated the use of the legal ceremonies, and, together with others, advised St. Paul to purify himself and offer sacrifice. He is the author of a canonical epistle which he wrote in Greek. It is at the head of those called catholic, or universal, because addressed not to any one particular church, but to the whole body of the converted Jews dispersed throughout the then known world. It was penned some time after those of St. Paul to the Galatians, in 55, and to the Romans in 58. It could not therefore be written before the year 59, fourteen years after the death of St. James the greater. The author's view in this epistle is to refute the false teachers, who, abusing certain expressions in St. Paul's writings, pretended that faith alone was sufficient to justification without good works: whereas, without these, he declares our faith is dead. He adds excellent precepts of a holy life, and exhorts the faithful not to neglect the sacrament of extreme-unction in sickness.
The oriental liturgy or mass, which bears the name of this apostle, is mentioned by Proclus, patriarch of Constantinople, and by the council in Trullo, and is of venerable antiquity. St. Basil, indeed, testifies, that the words of the sacred invocation in the consecration of the bread and of the cup, were not committed to writing, but learned and preserved by tradition down to the fourth century, which was done on a motive of respect and veneration: but other parts of the liturgy were written. Perhaps St. James gave only general directions about this liturgy, upon whose plan it was afterwards drawn up or enlarged. His singular learning in sacred matters is extolled by St. Clement of Alexandria, and St. Jerome.
The Jews, being exasperated at the disappointment of their malicious designs against St. Paul, by his appeal to Cæsar, to whom he was sent by Festus, in the year 60, were resolved to revenge it on St. James. That governor, dying before the arrival of his successor, Albinus, this vacancy gave them an opportunity of acting more arbitrarily than otherwise they durst have done. Wherefore, during this interval, Ananus, the high-priest, son of the famous Annas mentioned in the gospels, having assembled the Sanhedrim, or great council of the Jews, summoned St. James and others before it. Josephus, the Jewish historian, says, that St. James was accused of violating the laws, and delivered to the people to be stoned to death. And Hegesippus adds, that they carried him up to the battlements of the temple, and would have compelled him from thence to make a public renunciation of his faith in Christ, with this further view, thereby to undeceive, as they termed it, those among the people who had embraced Christianity. But St. James took that opportunity to declare his belief in Jesus Christ, after the most solemn and public manner. For he cried out aloud from the battlements, in the hearing of a great multitude, which was then at Jerusalem on account of the Passover, that Jesus, the Son of man, was seated at the right hand of the Sovereign Majesty, and would come in the clouds of heaven to judge the world. The Scribes and Pharisees, enraged at this testimony in behalf of Jesus, cried out: “The just man also hath erred.” And going up to the battlements, they threw him headlong down to the ground, saying, “He must be stoned.” St. James, though very much bruised by his fall, had strength enough to get upon his knees, and in this posture, lifting up his eyes to heaven, he begged of God to pardon his murderers, seeing that they knew not what they did. The rabble below received him with showers of stones, and at last a fuller gave him a blow on the head with his club, such as is used in dressing of cloths, after which he presently expired. This happened on the festival of the Pasch, the tenth of April, in the year of Christ 62, the seventh of Nero. He was buried near the temple, in the place in which he was martyred, where a small column was erected. Such was the reputation of his sanctity, that the Jews attributed to his death the destruction of Jerusalem, as we read in St. Jerome, Origen, and Eusebius, who assure us that Josephus himself declared it in the genuine editions of his history. Ananus put others to death for the same cause, but was threatened for this very fact by Albinus, and deposed from the high-priesthood by Agrippa. The episcopal throne of St. James was shown with respect at Jerusalem, in the fourth century. His relics are said to have been brought to Constantinople about the year 572.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - The Paschal Time, Vol. II, Dublin, Edition 1871;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. V, 1821; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
Ss. Philip and James, pray for us.