25 July 2022

Praying with the World Church in
Ordinary Time: Monday 25 July 2022

Saint James the Great … an icon in the Chapel at Saint Columba’s House, Woking (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In the Calendar of the Church today, we celebrate Saint James the Apostle (25 July 2022). Later today, I hope to take part in the annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), which begins this afternoon in the High Leigh Conference Centre at Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire. This year’s conference has the theme ‘Living Stones, Living Hope.’

I am continuing my prayer diary each morning this week in this way:

1,Reading the Gospel reading of the morning;

2,a short reflections on the reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

Matthew 20: 20-28 (NRSVA):

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favour of him. 21 And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ 22 But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ 23 He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’

24 When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

Today’s reflection:

The English name James comes from Italian Giacomo, a variant of Giacobo, which is derived from Iacobus in Latin and Ἰάκωβος in Greek. It is the same name as Jacob in the Hebrew Bible. In French, the name is Jacques, in Spanish it is Jaime, and in Catalan it is Jaume. Variations include Diego in Spanish, giving us San Diego and Santiago, and Diogo in Portuguese.

This Saint James, traditionally regarded as the first apostle to be martyred, is said to have been a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of Saint John the Evangelist. He is also called Saint James the Great to distinguish him from Saint James, son of Alphaeus, and Saint James, the Brother of the Lord, or Saint James the Just.

His father Zebedee was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, and probably lived in or near Bethsaida in present Galilee, perhaps in Capernaum. His mother Salome was one of the pious women who followed Christ and ‘ministered unto him of their substance.’ But James and John are also known as ‘the Sons of Thunder’ (see Mark 3: 17).

This Saint James is one of the first disciples. The Synoptic Gospels say James and John were with their father by the seashore when Christ called them to follow him (see Matthew 4: 21-22; Mark 1: 19-20). James was one of the three disciples, along with Saint Peter and Saint John, who witnesses to the Transfiguration, which we celebrate on Saturday 6 August.

Saint James and Saint John, or their mother, ask Christ to be seated on his right and left in his glory. They also want to call down fire on a Samaritan town, but they are rebuked for this (see Luke 9: 51-6).

The Acts of the Apostles records that Herod (probably Herod Agrippa) had Saint James executed by sword, making him the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament (see Acts 12: 1-2).

Saint James is linked with the Camino, a mediaeval pilgrimage that has become popular in recent decades with people seeking spiritual rootings that are relevant to the demands of modern life. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain is the reputed burial place of Saint James the Great.

According to Spanish legends, Saint James spent time preaching in Iberia, but returned to Jerusalem after seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary on the bank of the Ebro River. One version says that after his death, his disciples shipped his body to the Iberian Peninsula, to be buried in what is now Santiago. Off the coast of Spain, a heavy storm hit the ship, and the body was lost in the ocean. After some time, however, it washed ashore undamaged, covered in scallops.

A second version of the legend says that after Saint James died his body was transported by a ship piloted by an angel, back to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in Santiago. As the ship approached land, a wedding was taking place on the shore. The young groom was on horseback, and on seeing the ship approaching, his horse took fright and horse and rider were plunged into the sea. Through miraculous intervention, both horse and rider emerged from the water alive, covered in seashells.

Saint James became the patron saint of Spain, and Santiago de Compostela became the end point of the popular pilgrim route known as the Camino. The emblem of Saint James is the scallop, which has become a general symbol of pilgrims and pilgrimage. The name Santiago is a local Galician form of the late Latin name Sancti Iacobi, Saint James.

The history of the Camino de Santiago dates back to the early ninth century and the discovery of the tomb of Saint James in the year 814. Since then, Santiago de Compostela has been a destination for pilgrims from throughout Europe.

The Way of Saint James became one of the most important pilgrimages in the Middle Ages, alongside those to Rome and Jerusalem. With the Muslim occupation of Jerusalem and later during the Crusades, the Camino became a safe and popular alternative to pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

The flow of people along the Camino brought about a growth in the number of hostels and hospitals, churches, monasteries and abbeys along the pilgrim route.

The scallop shell has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Along the Camino, the shell is seen frequently on posts and signs to guide pilgrims, and the shell is commonly worn by pilgrims too. Most pilgrims receive a shell at the beginning of the journey and either sew it onto their clothes, wear it around their necks or keep it in their backpacks.

As I head off from Stony Stratford for London and then to Hoddesdon for the opening of this year’s USPG annual conference, I hope I am asking myself questions about where I am in the pilgrimage of life, what role am I playing in the Kingdom of God, and whether I am truly seeking to serve God’s kingdom rather than serving my own interests in life.

The silver reliquary in the crypt in Santago de Compostela is said to hold the relics of Saint James and two of his disciples (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘The Way Towards Healing,’ looking at the work for peace of the Churches in Korea. This theme was introduced yesterday by Shin Seung-min, National Council of Churches in Korea.

Monday 25 July (Saint James the Apostle):

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Today we give thanks for the life and works of St James the Apostle. May we follow Jesus’ call with the faith and conviction he showed.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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