Today is the Feast of St James the Greater, Apostle, brother of John and a of Zebedee. He was put to death probably in AD 42. His feast marks the translation of his relics.
Although today is a Sunday, which outweighs the Feast, we nevertheless commemorate St. James. As we do, we also remember the moment in the Gospel with the mother of James and John asks the Lord for “glory” for them. They affirm the request. They got what they asked for, but not in the way they thought. John lived to old age, the last to die, and James was the first to die: direct opposites. “Glory”, in the Gospel of John, as in John 17 when Jesus says to the Father, “Glorify your Son” and John remarks that, at Calvary, he had “seen His glory”, John means the Passion and crucifixion of the Lord. Both John and James were glorified. John did not escape martyrdom, by the way. When he was in Rome he was arrested and several times they tried to kill him, to no avail. He was exiled to Patmos.
All of us have to drink the chalice. To be with Christ in heaven, we who bear his name and mark have to follow him to the Cross before the resurrection. The chalice for most people is not martyrdom of blood. But it always has to be the martyrdom of loving obedience to God’s will as it is lived out in our vocations, whatever vocation that may be.
Each person’s vocation has its particular chalice to drink.
I note with interest a particular word in today’s Collect for the commemoration of St. James. Let’s see if you notice it too.
Esto, Dómine, plebi tuæ sanctificátor et custos: ut, Apóstoli tui Iacóbi muníta præsídiis, et conversatióne tibi pláceat, et secúra mente desérviat.
Variations of this appear in ancient sacramentaries, such as the Gregorian, for feasts of apostles and other occasions. There are variants, such as “Esto protector, Domine, populi tui propitiatus et rector eique…“.
A literal translation:
O Lord, be the sanctifier and the guard of your people, so that, fortified with the assistances of Your Apostle James, it may both please You by their manner of living and also zealously serve You with a tranquil mind.
A looser translation:
Protect Your people and make them holy, O Lord, so that, guarded by the help of Your Apostle James, they may please You by their conduct and serve You with peace of mind.