Since December 26, St Stephen’s Day, falls on a Sunday this year, the feast of St Stephen is transferred to December 27, and the feasts of St John and of the Holy Innocents are transferred to December 28 and December 29, respectively.
John, the son of Zebedee, with his brother James, was called from being a fisherman to be a disciple and “fisher of men.” With Peter and James, he became one of the inner group of three disciples whom Jesus chose to be with him at the raising of Jairus’ daughter, at the Transfiguration, and in the garden of Gethsemane.
John and his brother James are recorded in the Gospel as being so hotheaded and impetuous that Jesus nicknames them “Boanerges,” which means “sons of thunder.” They also appear ambitious, in that they sought seats of honor at Jesus’ right and left when he should come into his kingdom. Yet they were faithful companions who were willing, without knowing the cost, to share the cup Jesus was to drink. When the other disciples responded in anger to the audacity of the brothers in asking for this honor, Jesus explained that in his kingdom leadership and rule take the form of being a servant to all.
If, as is traditionally held, John is to be identified with “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” then he clearly enjoyed a very special relationship with his Master, reclining close to Jesus at the Last Supper, receiving the care of his Mother at the cross, and being the first to understand the truth of the empty tomb.
The Acts of the Apostles records John’s presence with the Apostle Peter on several occasions: the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, before the Sanhedrin, in prison, and on the mission to Samaria to lay hands on the new converts that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
According to tradition, John later went to Asia Minor and settled at Ephesus, where he had the care of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, until her death. Under the emperor Domitian, he was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he experienced the visions recounted in the Book of Revelation. Irenaeus, at the end of the second century, wrote that Polycarp, bishop of the Church at Smyrna, recalled in his old age that he had known the apostle while growing up at Ephesus. It is probable that John died there. He alone of the Twelve is said to have lived to extreme old age and to have been spared a martyr’s death, though he suffered the martyrdom of exile.
adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts
Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
Bonum est confiteri
It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD, *
and to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;
To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning *
and of your faithfulness in the night season;
On the psaltery, and on the lyre, *
and to the melody of the harp.
For you have made me glad by your acts, O LORD; *
and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.
LORD, how great are your works! *
your thoughts are very deep.
The dullard does not know,
nor does the fool understand, *
that though the wicked grow like weeds,
and all the workers of iniquity flourish,
They flourish only to be destroyed for ever; *
but you, O LORD, are exalted for evermore.
For lo, your enemies, O LORD,
lo, your enemies shall perish, *
and all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.
But my horn you have exalted like the horns of wild bulls; *
I am anointed with fresh oil.
My eyes also gloat over my enemies, *
and my ears rejoice to hear the doom of the wicked who rise up against me.
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, *
and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.
Those who are planted in the house of the LORD *
shall flourish in the courts of our God;
They shall still bear fruit in old age; *
they shall be green and succulent;
That they may show how upright the LORD is, *
my Rock, in whom there is no fault.
1 John 1:1-9
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
And after saying this Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.”
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”
This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.
Pray today especially for
- a right spirit of awe and reverence in the presence of God
- sight of the glory of God in Jesus Christ
- increased knowledge of the Incarnation
O God, the King of saints, we praise and magnify your holy Name for all your servants who have finished their course in your faith and fear; for the blessed Virgin Mary; for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; and for all other of your righteous servants, known to us and unknown; remembering especially this day Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist; and we beseech you that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, and strengthened by their fellowship, we also may be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The scripture texts for the Lesson, the Epistle, and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).