Friday, October 23, 2015

Saint James of Jerusalem October 23 (St. James, the Brother of God)

Today is the commemoration of Saint James the Just, the brother of Jesus, the first bishop of Jerusalem. In the Eastern Church, he is called the Brother of God. Because the early Church fathers believed that Mary maintained her virginity after Jesus was born, James was considered either a step brother of Jesus (Eastern Church), or a cousin (Western Church). However, most Protestant scholars and even many Catholic Bible scholars today consider that James is the sibling of Jesus, also a son of Mary  (see today's Gospel, Matthew 13.54-58).

Ancient Christian writers say that James was not only Bishop of Jerusalem, but that he functioned as a high priest, and that he entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple. That he was a holy, prayerful man, and leader in the Church of Jerusalem, is attested to by Jerome (citing the ancient Church historian Heggesipius):

“After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camels' knees.”

Ancient Christian writers and Josephus witness to Jame’s martyrdom:

[The scribes and Pharisees]... threw down the just man... [and] began to stone him: for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned, and kneeled down, and said: "I beseech thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."And, while they were there, stoning him to death, one of the priests, the sons of Rechab, the son of Rechabim, to whom testimony is borne by Jeremiah the prophet, began to cry aloud, saying: “Cease, what do ye? The just man is praying for us." But one among them, one of the fullers, took the staff with which he was accustomed to wring out the garments he dyed, and hurled it at the head of the just man. And so he suffered martyrdom; and they buried him on the spot, and the pillar erected to his memory still remains, close by the temple. This man was a true witness to both Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ.

Fragments from the Acts of the Church; Concerning the Martyrdom of James, the Brother of the Lord, from Book 5


The Epistle of James is traditionally attributed to James, and contains the famous passage "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead (James 2.17, NRSV)."

The Epistle of James enjoins good works, and calls for social justice. James teaches in his epistle to treat the poor with respect (2.1-7), and condemns oppression by the rich (5.1-6). The style of the letter is reminiscent of Jewish wisdom literature.


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Collect and Readings for St. James


Collect for Saint James of Jerusalem    October 23
Grant, we beseech thee, O God, that after the example of thy
 servant James the Just, brother of our Lord, thy Church may
 give itself continually to prayer and to the reconciliation of
 all who are at variance and enmity; through the same our
 Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the
 Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalm 1 The Two Ways
 Happy are those
   who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
   or sit in the seat of scoffers;
 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
   and on his law they meditate day and night.
 They are like trees
   planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
   and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

 The wicked are not so,
   but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
   nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
   but the way of the wicked will perish.

Acts 15.13-22a
After they finished speaking, James replied, ‘My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favourably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written,
 “After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen;
   from its ruins I will rebuild it,
     and I will set it up,
 so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—
   even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.
     Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.”
Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every Sabbath in the synagogues.’
 Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.

1 Corinthians 15.1-11 The Resurrection of Christ
Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Matthew 13.54-58 The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth
 He came to his home town and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?’ And they took offence at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.’ And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

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