Today is the Feast of St. Philip and St. James. We remember these two apostles by reading a devotion from Celebrating the Saints.
St. Philip was from Bethsaida in Galilee, the same town on the shores of Lake Gennesaret that Peter and Andrew, James and John were from. We learn most about this disciple and apostle of Christ from John’s Gospel. After Christ found Philip and called to him, “Follow me!” Philip, in turn, found Nathanael: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth.” Nathanael was skeptical of our Lord’s apparent Galilean origins, but Philip pressed him with the invitation: “Come and see!” The Church has echoed that invitation throughout the ages to any who are curious but doubtful.
Before the Feast of Passover at which our Lord was crucified and raised, some Greeks approached Philip because he was from Galilee and said, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” When Andrew and Philip together brought the request to our Lord, He promised, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” At the Last Supper, Philip, hearing Christ speak of the Father, begged to see the Father. Christ replied, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.”
After witnessing the Lord’s resurrection and the dispersion of the apostles, tradition suggests Philip journeyed to Scythia and Phrygia. He is reported to have met his death by crucifixion in Hieropolis. His symbol is therefore a simple Latin cross.
The James commemorated today is not to be confused with the brother of John and son of Zebedee. To distinguish the two, the epitaph “the elder” is usually attached to John’s brother, and “the less” (which may be taken as “the younger” or “the shorter”) attached to this James. He was the son of Alphaeus. Presumably it was his mother, Mary, who was among the women mentioned at the cross and the tomb. He had a brother Joseph (or Joses). Tradition suggests that he was martyred in Ostrakine in lower Egypt. His apostolic shield sports a fuller’s club, for he was reportedly beaten to death with one.
In the Preface from the Divine Service for this day we pray,
“It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God: for You have mightily governed and protected Your Holy Church, in which the blessed apostles and evangelists proclaimed Your divine and saving Gospel. Therefore with patriarchs and prophets, apostles and evangelists, with Your servants Saints Philip and James, and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name. . . .”
Almighty God, Your Son revealed Himself to Philip and James and gave them the knowledge of everlasting life. Grant us perfectly to know Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the way, the truth, and the life, and steadfastly to walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Devotional reading and prayer are from Celebrating the Saints, pages 70–71 © 2016 William C. Weedon. Published by Concordia Publishing House.
Scripture quotations from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.