Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Proper of the Day: St. James of Jerusalem

Today the Episcopal Church observes the life and witness of St. James of Jerusalem "The Just," brother of Our Lord. This James is not the same as James son of Zebedee, but is assumed to be the author of the Letter of James and is also considered, because of the witness in Acts and elsewhere, as the first Bishop of Jerusalem, and so in some sense the first ackwoledged Bishop in Christian history. James was executed during an interval in Roman governors in Jerusalem in about 62 AD. By the First Council of Nicea in 325 AD, there were some three hundred bishops in Christianity, but up till then only five Patriachs, or bishops of the most important dioceses. These are Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome. So James the Just has a special place in Christianity for those who believe that being "catholic and apostolic" means being in communion with the historic episcopate.

Often the Scriptures appointed for Major Feasts are pretty obvious in their application. Occasionally, they don't seem to be, at least to me. Tonight's second lesson at Evening Prayer (Hebr. 12:12-24) seems like that to me. it's clearly exhortation to be at peace with others and also to recognize that in Jesus, proximity to God is assured, unlike at Mount Sinai during the Revelation of the Torah. This feast is not in the 1928 BCP, so is new in this edition. The recent Lutheran Evangelical Lutheran Worship does not have seperate readings in the Office for major feasts, and this feast is not observed there or by the Roman Catholic rite either. So no clues there. (Update: this Feast is observed by the Orthodox churches, and some of the appointed scripture is the same - see here.) The Psalms for the day are very Jerusalem-centric, and the reading from Isaiah (Is 65:17-25) is a wonderful prophecy about the Holy City's renewal. It's probably obvious to everyone but me, so if someone would please explain it, please do!

This Daily Office site suggests "O Lord, Thou Has Been Our Refuge" by Vaughn Williams for today. Here's a version on youtube that's nicely sung:

Grant, O God, that following the example of your servant James the Just, brother of our Lord, your Church may give itself continually to prayer and to the reconciliation of all who are at variance and enmity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever.


PS - The icon of St. James was written by Fr. Tobias Haller at In a Godward Direction just this year and will be dedicated Sunday. It's used with his permission.

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