The Traditional Catholic Liturgy

Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger

Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles (May 11)

St. PhilipTwo of the favored witnesses of our Beloved Jesus' Resurrection come before us today. Sts. 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 (1 John 1: 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. St. Philip is leaning upon the cross to which he was fastened, as Jesus had been; St. James is holding the club wherewith he was struck dead.

St. Philip preached the Gospel in the two Phrygias, and his martyrdom took place at Hierapolis. He was married when he was called by our Savior; 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.

St. James is better known than St. Philip. He is called in Sacred Scripture, the brother of the Lord (Gal. 1: 19 and elsewhere), on account of the close relationship that existed between his own mother and the Blessed Mother of Jesus. (He is also called James the Less, to distinguish him from James the Greater—who was the brother of St. John, and of greater bodily stature.) He claims our veneration during Paschal Time, inasmuch as he was favored with a special visit from our Risen Lord, as we learn from St. Paul (1 Cor. 15: 7). There can be no doubt but that he had done something to deserve this mark of Jesus' predilection. St. Jerome and St. Epiphanius tell us that our Savior, 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 fourth century, had in their possession a 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 preferred to think of it as a consequence of the murder of St. 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 the eloquence of an inspired writer, that works must accompany our faith if we would be just with that justice which makes us like our Risen Lord.

The bodies of Sts. Philip and James repose in the Basilica of the Holy Apostles in Rome. These relics are counted as one of the richest treasures of the Holy City, and there is reason to believe that the first day of May (which was formerly the date of this Feast), is the real anniversary of their translation. For a long period the Church of Rome kept special Feasts in honor of only four of the Apostles: Sts. Peter and Paul, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Andrew (the brother of St. Peter); the rest were united in the solemnity of June 29, and a vestige of this is still to be found in the office of that day, as we have seen. The reception of the bodies of Sts. Philip and James, which were brought from the East somewhere about the sixth century, gave rise to the institution of today's Feast; and this led gradually to the insertion into the Calendar of special Feasts for the other Apostles and Evangelists.

In the Collect, the Church acknowledges that Her children justly suffer the chastisements which are the consequences of sin; but She beseeches Her Divine Lord to send them that mercy which will deliver them:

Let us now read the brief account given of St. Philip in the Breviary:

St. Philip was born in Bethsaida, and was one of the twelve Apostle that were first called by Christ Our Lord. It was from St. Philip that Nathanael learned that the Messias who was promised in the Law (of Moses) had come; and by him also he was led to Our Lord. We have a clear proof of the familiarity wherewith St. Philip was treated by Christ, in the fact that the Gentiles addressed themselves to this Apostle when they wished to see the Savior. Again when Our Lord was about to feed the multitude in the desert, He spoke to St. Philip, and said, "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" (John 6: 5) After having received the Holy Ghost, he went into Scythia, which was the country allotted to him, wherein to preach the Gospel; and converted almost the 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.

Thou, O St. Philip, wast devoted to our Risen Jesus, even from the first day of His calling thee. Scarcely hadst thou come to know him as the Messias, than thou didst announce 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. 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 that 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 labors, Jesus gave thee to share with Him the honors 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.

The Breviary then gives the two following Lessons upon St. James:

St. 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 made use of the (public) baths. 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 having been delivered out of prison by an angel. A dispute having arisen in the Council of Jerusalem concerning the Mosaic Law and circumcision, St. James sided with St. 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 told not to impose the yoke of the Mosaic Law upon the Gentiles. It is of him that the Apostle (St. Paul) 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.

Martyrdom of St. James the LessSuch was St. James' holy life, that people used to strive with each other to touch the hem of his garment. At the age of 96 years—of which he had spent 30 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. He legs were broken by the fall; and as he was lying half dead upon the ground, he raised up his hands toward 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.

O St. James, thou that art called brother of the Lord, on whose venerable features was stamped the likeness of our Redeemer, we also honor thy love for Him. 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 St. Peter, to whom He appeared after His Resurrection. We affectionately congratulate thee, O St. James, for the honor thus conferred upon thee; do thou, in return, obtain for us that we may taste and see how sweet is our Risen Lord (Ps. 33: 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 which befits His disciples; and that we may ever be brave and loyal in proclaiming His rights as King over all creatures.

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