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October 23, 2012

Holy Apostle James, the Brother of God

St. Iakovos, the Brother of God (Feast Day - October 23)

By Fr. Sergei V. Bulgakov

One of the Seventy, in the opinion of the majority of the holy fathers of the Church, especially the Eastern, he was the son of St. Joseph the Betrothed, and needs to be distinguished from James, son of Zebedee (see Apr. 30) and James, son of Alpheus (see Oct. 9). As his father Joseph is called the father of Jesus Christ, and thus he is called "the brother of the Lord in the flesh" (Gal. 1:19), and in this sense even the All-Holy Virgin Mary may be called his mother (Mt. 13:55; Mk. 6:3). According to tradition, he accompanied the All-Holy Theotokos when she with the Baby Jesus and Joseph fled to Egypt from the wrath of Herod (Refer to Dec. 26). After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he was worthy of the special appearance of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:7).

St. James was strictly devout from youth. Distinguished by an unusually strict way of life, he observed the strictest fast; neither partook of wine nor meat, nor cut his hair, nor bathed, nor rubbed his body with olive oil, nor wore soft clothes but wore coarse haircloth and frequently prayed with prostrations. In prayer he practiced asceticism with such fervor that a hardened leather formed on his knees, like a camel's, from the frequent prostrations. For such a virtuous life James was known to all people as the righteous one and so earned great respect among the Judaic leaders, that he alone was given permission by the high priest to enter the Holy of Holies, the innermost part of the Jerusalem temple, where St. James retired for prayer.

St. James was even more greatly honored in the beginning society by the Christians and he was honored as a pillar of the Church (Gal. 2:9). Tradition holds that, by command of the Lord, he was installed by the Apostles as Bishop of the Jerusalem Church. He presided over the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-21). St. James spent the whole time of his apostolic service in Jerusalem and many people always gathered around him not only to listen to his words, but also to only touch the edge of his robe.

"Enlightening those in the darkness of cruelty", in his sermons about Christ he successfully excited the attention and envy of the Judaic leaders, who plotted to kill him. With this goal in mind and taking advantage of the absence of the Roman governor in Jerusalem, the enemies of the Christian faith demanded from him that he in the presence of all the multitude of people gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover solemnly confess before all that the Christians are mistaken in believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and forcefully entered the holy apostle on the roof of the temple so that all could hear his truthful word. But from the mouth of the holy confessor of the faith in Christ they heard fearlessly beforeall assembly of the Jews the spoken word about the divinity of Jesus Christ. Then many believed in Christ, and the scribes and Pharisees spoke among themselves: "We did poorly, giving Jesus such witness from one respected by all men". Fearing that many will turn away from the faith to his witness, they furiously threw the righteous man off the roof, shouting: "even the righteous has gone astray". Severely injured from falling from that height, St. James did not suddenly die, but still had the strength to rise on his knees and to pray for his enemies.

Notwithstanding, the cruel Jews stoned him and one of them with a blow to the head ended the life of the holy confessor and martyr of Christ. This happened in the year 62 after the Nativity of Christ. The martyr's death of St. James made such an impression on the minds of the Jews that they considered the afflictions of the war with the Romans and the war itself that befell them (66-70) as the punishment of God for this death.

The Holy Apostle James wrote a "Catholic epistle", which is deeply edifying, where he teaches about the necessity of good works for Christians without which their faith is dead (Jas. 11:17 and fol.). The Holy Apostle also composed one of the ancient liturgies.

Apolytikion in the Second Tone
As the Lord's disciple, O righteous One, you received the Gospel, as Martyr, you have unwavering courage, as the Lord's brother, you have forthrightness, as Hierarch, intercession. Intercede with Christ our God, that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
O wondrous Iakovos, God the Logos, only-begotten of the Father, who dwelt among us in latter days, declared you, the first shepherd and teacher of Jerusalem, and faithful steward of the spiritual mysteries. Wherefore, we all honor you, O Apostle.