Category Archives: Holy Days: Other Major Feasts

The Holy Innocents

Herod the Great, appointed ruler (ethnarch) of the Jews by the Romans in 40 BC, kept the peace in Palestine for 37 years. His ruthless control, coupled with genuine ability, has been recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus, who describes him as “a man of great barbarity towards everyone.” Though he identified himself publicly as a practicing Jew, Herod was an Idumaean (an Edomite), the son of Antipater the Idumaean, a high-ranking official under the Jewish ethnarch Hyrcanus II, the last legal Hasmonean rule of Judaea, whose daughter Herod married. Because he was not himself a Hasmonean and was not ethnically a Jew, Herod was continually in fear of losing his throne. It is not surprising that the Magi’s report of the birth of an infant King of the Jews (Matthew 2) caused him fear and anger. Although the event is not recorded in other sources, the story of the massacre of the Innocents is completely in keeping with what is known of Herod’s character.

To protect himself against being supplanted by an infant king, Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children under two years of age in Bethlehem and the surrounding region. We do not know how many were killed, but the Church has always honored these innocent children as martyrs. Augustine of Hippo called them, “buds, killed by the frost of persecution the moment they showed themselves.”

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Jeremiah 31:15-17

Thus says the Lord:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.”

Thus says the Lord:
“Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears,
for there is a reward for your work,
declares the Lord,
and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
There is hope for your future,
declares the Lord,
and your children shall come back to their own country.

Psalm 128
Nisi quia Dominus

If the LORD had not been on our side, *
let Israel now say;

If the LORD had not been on our side, *
when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive *
in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us *
and the torrent gone over us;

Then would the raging waters *
have gone right over us.

Blessed be the LORD! *
he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler; *
the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD, *
the maker of heaven and earth.

The Epistle
Revelation 21:1-7

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

The Gospel
Matthew 2:13-18

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

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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).

An icon of the Holy Innocents entitled, “The Lament of Rachel“, and the troparion for the day, may be viewed at the “Come and See” Icons website.

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Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist

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, writes 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 (1980)

The Collect

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.

The Lesson
Exodus 33:18-23

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.”

Psalm 92
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.

The Epistle
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.

The Gospel
John 21:19b-24

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.

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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).

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Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr

Very probably a Hellenistic Jew, Stephen was one of the “seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3), who were chosen by the apostles to relieve them of the administrative burden of waiting on tables and caring for the widows. By this appointment to assist the apostles, Stephen, the first named of those whom the New Testament calls “the Seven”, became the first to do what the Church traditionally considers to be the work and ministry of a deacon.

It is apparent from that Stephen’s ministry involved more than serving tables, for the Acts of the Apostles speaks of his preaching and performing many miracles. These activities led him into conflict with some of the Jews, who accused him of blasphemy, and brought him before the Sanhedrin. His powerful sermon before the Council is recorded in the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. His denunciations of the Sanhedrin and against the Temple so enraged the members of the council that, without a trial, they dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death.

Saul, later called Paul, stood by, consenting to Stephen’s death, but Stephen’s example of steadfast faith in Jesus, and of intercession for his persecutors, was to find fruit in the mission and witness of the Apostle Paul after his conversion. A sermon by Fulgentius, a sixth century bishop of Ruspe, proclaims that Paul, helped by Stephen’s prayers, now rejoices with Stephen, delights in the glory of Christ with Stephen, exalts with Stephen, and reigns with Stephen.

from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)

The Collect

We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ, who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The First Lesson
Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15

In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the Lord: “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds. You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.’”

The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”

Psalm 31:1-5
In te Domine speravi

In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame; *
deliver me in your righteousness.

Incline your ear to me; *
make haste to deliver me.

Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold; *
for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.

Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, *
for you are my tower of strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit, *
for you have redeemed me,
O LORD, O God of truth.

The Second Lesson
Acts 6:8-7:2a,51c-60

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” And Stephen said:

“Brothers and fathers, hear me…Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

The Gospel
Matthew 23:34-39

Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

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The scripture texts for the Lessons and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).

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Saint Thomas the Apostle

The Gospel according to John records several incidents in which the apostle Thomas appears, and from them we are able to gain some impression of the sort of man he was. When Jesus insisted on going to Judea, to visit his friends at Bethany, Thomas boldly declared, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). At the Last Supper, he interrupted our Lord’s discourse with the question, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). After Christ’s resurrection, Thomas would not accept the account of the other apostles and the women, until Jesus appeared before him, showing him his wounds. This drew from him the first explicit acknowledgment of Jesus’ deity, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Thomas appears to have been a thoughtful if rather literal-minded man, inclined to skepticism; but he was a staunch friend when his loyalty was once given. The expression “Doubting Thomas”, which has become established in English usage, is not fair to Thomas. He did not refuse belief. He wanted to believe, but he wanted to be certain that what the others had seen was not simply an apparition or a vision, that the one whom they had seen was actually the same crucified Jesus, that God had actually raised him from the dead. Thomas serves as a witness to the bodily resurrection of the Lord in a Gospel that bears witness to the Word made flesh. For this reason, Jesus gave him a sign, though Jesus had refused a sign to the Pharisees. And yet, the Lord’s rebuke: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29), demonstrates that the sign itself does not create faith, that faith would come by the hearing of the word of those who bore witness to the crucified and risen Jesus as Lord and Messiah.

An early tradition noted by the fourth century bishop and historian Eusebius and others tells of Thomas’ evangelization of the Persians and of his missionary travels in India. The third century Acts of Thomas tell that he entered India as a carpenter (hence his being traditionally depicted with a carpenter’s square and rule), preached the Gospel, performed miracles, and died a martyr at Mylapore near Madras. One of the greatest of the early basilicas (fourth century) was the Church of St Thomas at Edessa, Syria, and his body is said to have been buried there, though the stories of his work in India claim his burial at St Thomas Mount near Madras.

It is possible, though modern scholars think it unlikely, that Thomas reached India. The “Christians of St Thomas”, who live along the Malabar coast of southern India and are gathered into several different Churches of Syriac origin (including the Mar Thoma Church, in communion with the Churches of the Anglican Communion), claim spiritual descent from Thomas the Apostle. What is not disputed is that they were in India at least a thousand years prior to the arrival of European missionaries in the sixteenth century.

The Eastern Churches have commemorated St Thomas since the sixth century, and the Roman observance dates from the ninth century. His feast day in the East is October 6, and the Roman Catholic Church has moved his commemoration out of Advent to July 3, the date of his commemoration in the Syrian Church.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)
and The New Book of Festivals & Commemorations (Philip Pfatteicher, Fortress Press 2008)

The Collect

Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Habakkuk 2:1-4

I will take my stand at my watchpost
and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

And the Lord answered me:

“Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it.
For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith.

Psalm 126
In convertendo

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, *
then were we like those who dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter, *
and our tongue with shouts of joy.

Then they said among the nations, *
“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us, *
and we are glad indeed.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD, *
like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears *
will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

The Epistle
Hebrews 10:35-11:1

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,

“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The Gospel
John 20:24-29

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

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The scripture texts for the Lesson, Epistle, and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).

The icon of Saint Thomas is taken from the website of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery.

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Saint Andrew the Apostle

Andrew, whose name means “manly”, was the brother of Simon Peter and was born in Bethsaida, a village of Galilee. The Gospel according to John tells us that Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, was one of the two disciples who followed Jesus after John had declared of him, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Andrew and the other disciple followed Jesus, and Andrew’s first act afterward was to find his brother and bring him to Jesus. For this reason, Andrew is given the title “the First-Called” by the Eastern Churches.

Though Andrew was not a part of the inner circle of disciples – Peter, James, and John, he is always named in the lists of the disciples. In Matthew and Luke, his name appears second, while in Mark and in the Acts of the Apostles he is listed after Peter, James, and John, as fourth in the list in company with Philip. Andrew appears prominently in several incidents in the Gospels. Andrew and Peter were fishermen, and in the Gospel according to Matthew Jesus calls them from their occupation, and they immediately respond to his call. Andrew was the disciple who brought the boy with the loaves and the fishes to Jesus for the feeding of the multitude.

The fourth century historian and bishop Eusebius writes that after Pentecost, Andrew preached in Scythia. Jerome and Theodoret locate his preaching in Greece (Achaia), and Nicephorus places him in Asia Minor and Thrace. The late second century Muratorian Fragment connects him with the writing of the Gospel according to John. A late tradition holds that he was martyred on November 30, c. 70 at Patras in Achaia. An ancient church still stands over the traditional site of his martyrdom. The earliest mention of his being crucified on an X-shaped (“Greek”) cross is from the tenth century. This tradition accounts for the X-shaped cross of St Andrew that appears in medieval and Renaissance iconography.

St Andrew’s body is said to have been taken to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople in 357 and later translated to the cathedral in Amalfi, Italy. The patriarchate of Constantinople grounds its claim to be an apostolic see (like Antioch, Jerusalem, and Rome) on the tradition of his having been the first bishop of the Church at Byzantium, the older town which the emperor Constantine enlarged to found Constantinople. The Churches of Greece and Russia particularly give high honor to St Andrew, and because of a legend that certain of his relics were translated to St Andrew’s Church in Fife in the eighth century, he became a patron saint of Scotland (hence the appearance of the X-shaped Cross of St Andrew on the Scottish flag and on the British Union flag).

The feast of St Andrew was observed as early as the fourth century in the East and by the sixth century at Rome. The feast day determines the beginning of the Church year, since the First Sunday in Advent is always the Sunday nearest to St Andrew’s Day, whether before or after. In most liturgical books the sanctoral calendar begins with the commemoration of St Andrew the Apostle.

prepared from material from Lesser Feasts and Fasts
and from The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations
(Philip H. Pfatteicher, Fortress Press)

The Collect

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Deuteronomy 30:11-14

[Moses said to the people of Israel] For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

Psalm 19
Caeli enarrant

The heavens declare the glory of God, *
and the firmament shows his handiwork.

One day tells its tale to another, *
and one night imparts knowledge to another.

Although they have no words or language, *
and their voices are not heard,

Their sound has gone out into all lands, *
and their message to the ends of the world.

In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; *
it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
and runs about to the end of it again; *
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect
and revives the soul; *
the testimony of the LORD is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just
and rejoice the heart; *
the commandment of the LORD is clear
and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean
and endures for ever; *
the judgments of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold, *
sweeter far than honey,
than honey in the comb.

By them also is your servant enlightened, *
and in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can tell how often he offends? *
cleanse me from my secret faults.

Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me; *
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart be acceptable in your sight, *
O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

The Epistle
Romans 10:8b-18

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”

The Gospel
Matthew 4:18-22

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

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The scripture texts for the Lesson, Epistle, and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).

The icon of Saint Andrew the Apostle was written by and is © Aidan Hart and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

 

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Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles

Apart from their inclusion in the apostolic lists of the Twelve in the Synoptic Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, nothing more is known from the Scriptures about the apostles Simon and Jude. As with many of the Twelve, their names are recorded, but the details of their work after Pentecost is not given. We are simply given to know that they, along with the rest of the apostolic band, are the foundation on which the Church is built, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone.

Simon, sometimes given the epithet “the Less” to distinguish him from Simon Peter, is known in the Gospels either as Simon the Canaanite or Simon the Zealot. The latter may mean simply that he was zealous in keeping the Law, or that he was a member of the Zealot party, fanatical opponents of Roman rule in Judaea and Galilee. The Monology of Basil the Great tells us that Simon died a peaceful death at Edessa, but Western tradition, as represented by the Roman Martyrology and dating back to the sixth century, holds that he first preached in Egypt and then joined Jude (who had been in Mesopotamia), and that together they went to preach the Gospel in Persia, where they suffered martyrdom at Sufian (or at Siani).

Jude, called “Judas not Iscariot” in John’s Gospel, is referred to in Luke as “Judas of James”. In more modern translations, this is taken to mean “son of James”, but older translations (such as the Authorized Version) render it “brother of James”, so that in the West at least, Jude has traditionally been understood to have been the brother of James, the brother of the Lord (and thus the brother, step-brother, or cousin of Jesus – see Matthew 13 and Mark 6). (If so, this would make Jude the first of Jesus’ brothers known to have become one of his followers.) He is also traditionally held to be the author of the Epistle of Jude. Jude is also generally understood to be the same person as Thaddaeus (or Lebbaeus) in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark, names perhaps given to him to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot.

In the West, following the tradition of the apocryphal Passion of Simon and Jude, the two have been commemorated together in the calendar, on the twenty-eighth of October. The Armenian Church regards Saint Thaddaeus and Saint Bartholomew as the first to preach the Gospel among the Armenians and so commemorate those two apostles together. In the Orthodox Churches, Saint Simon and Saint Jude (“the brother of the Lord”) are commemorated separately. The relics of Saint Simon and Saint Jude are held to have been translated to Saint Peter’s in Rome in the seventh or eighth century. There are at least three ancient dedications of English churches to Saint Simon and Saint Jude together, but none to either of them alone.

The Collect

O God, we thank you for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Deuteronomy 32:1-4

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak,
and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
May my teaching drop as the rain,
my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
and like showers upon the herb.
For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
ascribe greatness to our God!
“The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is he.

Psalm 119:89-96
In aeternum, Domine

O LORD, your word is everlasting; *
it stands firm in the heavens.

Your faithfulness remains from one generation to another; *
you established the earth, and it abides.

By your decree these continue to this day, *
for all things are your servants.

If my delight had not been in your law, *
I should have perished in my affliction.

I will never forget your commandments, *
because by them you give me life.

I am yours; oh, that you would save me! *
for I study your commandments.

Though the wicked lie in wait for me to destroy me, *
I will apply my mind to your decrees.

I see that all things come to an end, *
but your commandment has no bounds.

The Epistle
Ephesians 2:13-22

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The Gospel
John 15:17-27

[Jesus said to his disciples] “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
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The icons of Saint Simon and Saint Jude are from the workshop of Simone Martini, c. 1320. My thanks to the website of Christ Church, Windsor, Nova Scotia, for the image.

The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979). The Lesson, Epistle, and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible.

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Saint James of Jerusalem, Brother of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Martyr, c. 62

In Matthew 13 and Mark 6, James is listed first among the brothers of Jesus: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 1 that he met James, “the Lord’s brother”, at Jerusalem on his first visit to the city after becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. From the second century, there has been some uncertainty about the exact relationship between Jesus and his brothers. In the second century, Epiphanius suggested that the “brothers” were sons of Joseph by a former marriage (Joseph being a widower at his marriage to Mary), which remains the view of the Eastern Church. Helvidius, a fourth century writer who opposed belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary, the mother of Jesus, claiming the support of Tertullian wrote that Jesus was Mary’s first child and that the brothers (and sisters) noted in the Gospels were children of Mary and Joseph, born after Jesus. In response to Helvidius, Saint Jerome stated that the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus were either older children of Joseph’s former marriage, and thus step-siblings of the Lord (following Epiphanius), or that they were actually the children of the Virgin Mary’s sister, and thus Jesus’ cousins (the word in the Gospels translated “brothers” can also be used of cousins). Jerome’s view prevailed in the West until most post-Reformation Protestants and Anglicans adopted Helvidius’ view.

Whatever his relationship to Jesus – younger brother, older step-brother, or cousin – James became a follower of Jesus after the Resurrection, when Jesus appeared specially to him. From early on, James was recognized as a leader in the church at Jerusalem. Although not one of the Twelve, he was regarded as an apostle (see Galatians 1). Saint Paul recognized James, along with the apostles Peter and John, as pillars of the church at Jerusalem. During the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), which resolved the deeply divisive issue of whether Gentile converts should be circumcized before baptism, James defended the position argued by Paul and Barnabas against requiring circumcision and summarized the council’s decision: “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God”, thus establishing the Church’s policy toward Gentile converts from that time forward.

The fourth century historian Eusebius, quoting from an earlier church history by Hegesippus, writes that James was surnamed “the Just” (the Righteous) on account of his great piety and ascetical life. He went frequently into the Temple alone to pray and knelt so often, interceding for the forgiveness of the people, that his knees became as callused as a camel’s. Eusebius recounts that James was so persuasive in leading people to faith in Jesus that the scribes and Pharisees entreated him to “restrain the people, who are led astray after Jesus, as if he were the Messiah.” Refusing to do so, James was then thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple, where he had been placed to denounce Jesus to the people, and once he was upon the pavement was cudgeled to death. Toward the end of the first century, the Jewish historian Josephus recounted that James “with certain others” was stoned to death in the year 62 at the instigation of the high priest Annas.

prepared from The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations,
Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980), and Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History

The Collect

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 for ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Acts 15:12-22a

And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul fas they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

“‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
and I will restore it,
that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.

Psalm 1
Beatus vir qui non abiit

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the LORD, *
and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked; *
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, *
nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, *
but the way of the wicked is doomed.

The Epistle
1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

The Gospel
Matthew 13:54-58

Coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

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Saint James of Jerusalem is commemorated by the Eastern Churches and by several Anglican Churches on October 23.

The icon of Saint James of Jerusalem was written by Tobias Stanislas Haller, BSG and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

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