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We Remember Philip and James

Feast Day of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles
May 1
May Day (Civic)

The Lord be with you

May 1 is the Feast Day of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles. This day has been observed as such since ca. 560, when their remains were moved to the new Church of the Holy Apostles in Rome. (Rome now celebrates these Apostles on May 3. See the PS below. The Eastern Church remembers Philip on November 14 and James on October 9.)

St. Philip is mentioned in the lists of the apostles (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13), but only in John’s Gospel is more told about him. Philip was from the small fishing village Bethsadia in Galilee (the same fishing village on the shores of Galilee from which Peter and Andrew came). He was one of the first disciples called after Peter and Andrew. Philip also was instrumental in bringing Nathanael to Jesus (John 1:42-51). It was to Philip that Jesus posed the question about where to buy bread to feed five thousand men (John 6:5). During Holy Week, some inquiring Greeks came to Philip seeking to meet with Jesus. (Philip is a Greek name meaning “horse lover.”) Philip took them to Andrew and then the two apostles brought them to Jesus (John 12:20-22). And on Maundy Thursday evening, Philip asked Jesus to show the Father to him and to the rest of the disciples (John 14:8). According to tradition, Philip went to labor first in Scythia on the north coast of the Black Sea and then to Phrygia (in modern Turkey). In Phrygia, according to the tradition, Philip was crucified and stoned. He was buried there. He is often symbolized by two loaves of bread and a cross.

St. James was a son of Alphaeus and was also called “the Younger” or “the Less” (to distinguish him from James, the son of Zebedee, “the Elder,” whose fest day is July 25). The name comes from Mark 15:40. He should also be distinguished from James of Jerusalem, the half-brother of Jesus. His mother, Mary, was one of the faithful women who stood at the cross of Jesus (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40). James is mentioned in the same apostolic lists as Philip, but there is no other mention of him in the New Testament. There is also no information regarding his field of labor or the circumstances of his death, except that he may have been martyred by being sawed in two or by being beaten to death. Consequently he is often symbolized by a saw or by two “fullers club” with which he was beaten.

Appropriate prayers include:

• For strength to follow Christ the Way
• For grace to know the Truth in Christ
• For courage to live the Life of Christ
• For all laborers and workers (see the P.S.)

Collect for the Day: Almighty God, who gave to your apostles Philip and James grace and strength to bear witness to the truth: Grant that we, being mindful of their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

P.S. May Day has roots that date back to before the birth of Christ. It was a pagan fertility festival recognizing the coming of summer. In the late 1800s it became associated with more radical elements in the labor movement when, in Chicago, a “general” strike shut down the city, beginning on May 1. The workers were demanding 8-hour work days. As things heated up, the police killed six workers. The Roman Catholic Church, to avoid conflict with the celebration of May 1 as a holiday honoring the working class, moved the Feast Day of St. Philip and St. James to May 11 in 1955. They set May 1 as the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Later (1969) they moved the Feast Day to May 3, because it was closer to May 1. Lutherans and Anglicans have kept the original date all along.

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