Peace to you, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today, in accordance with her calendar, the Church celebrates the day of Saint James the Apostle.
Of course, in some parishes, this holiday (like the others that fall on a weekday) is moved to the nearest Sunday.
But we congratulate you today, and may we bring to your attention an excerpt from the sermon by our Bishop Vsevolod, that he read in the parish of Saint James the Apostle in Novokuznetsk.
Saint James became the first martyr of the twelve apostles. But we know practically nothing from the Scriptures about his life and ministry. The Book of Acts only tells us about his death, and even so briefly, as if by chance:
At that time, King Herod raised his hands to some of the Church members to make them evil, and killed James, the brother of John, with the sword.Acts 12:1-2
The compilers of the Church lectionaries had to add a few verses from the previous chapter [Acts 11:27-30] to this reading so that it would not look too short. Even though the history of collecting of relief during the famine under the days of Claudius Caesar has no direct connection to James the Apostle.
Although it is possible that among the priests who received this relief, there were those ordained by Saint James. After all, it was through the apostolic ordination that the Church received her first bishops and presbyters (and she is still standing in this continuous line of succession from the apostles).
Against this Church, King Herod (the grandson of the most “famous” of the Herods — one who killed the children of Bethlehem), “raised his hands”, and some Christians were arrested and Saint James was executed. Here is a description of his death: “and killed James, the brother of John, with the sword”; there are seven words in Greek and six in Russian.
And that is all we know about Saint James from the Scriptures. The early Church writers contradictory tell us about the guard who was captured by the apostle’s preaching so much that he publicly confessed his faith in the Lord Jesus and was executed with the one he guarded. Was it happen? Maybe.
But still, it is written so little! So little we know about the apostle! And I realized that this is because the greatest saints are almost always invisible. In the same twelfth chapter of Acts, much more is written about Herod. Earthly rulers always produce much more noise than God’s saints. The people glorify these rulers, the crowds shout to them (as they shouted to King Herod): “This is the voice of God, not of a man” [Acts 12:23], they get public adoration, they are named as “fuhrers,” “lifelong leaders” and “fathers of nations.”
Around them always there are a lot of those who want, if not “to sit at their right hand and at the left” (these places have long been occupied), then at least to snatch a small piece of a celebration of life, constantly hovering around them.
In our world, the most popular persons are obvious sinners, who are demonstrating their permissiveness. But I do not envy them: celebrity and authority impose too much imprint on a person, and it is doubtful that those who are caught in such nets will be able to save their souls. King Herod could not.
Once, brothers James and John both dreamed of such human glory [see Matt. 20:20-28]. But the Lord graciously chose another way for them. Following that way, Saint James refused a human glory and obtained the glory of God. He suffered death from the earthly king and entered the eternal kingdom of the King of Kings.
Please pray for the Lutheran clergymen and laypeople in Siberia.
“Faith and hope”
Please see attached photos from the parish of Saint James in Novokuznetsk.