The Orthodox Pages



29th May 2008













































































































Continuing our talks on the lives and martyrdoms of the Apostles after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, today we are going to look at the lives of the Apostles whose names begin with J. There are two James, a John and a Jude also known as Thaddeus and Lebbæus belonging to the choir of the twelve Apostles, another Jude or Thaddeus belonging to the Seventy Apostles and another James who officially is not called an Apostle, but the Lord’s brother. Then there is an Apostle called Justus and another called Jason. Thus today we are going to look at 8 different saints beginning first with Jude.
St. Jude or Judas as his name is in Greek is not to be confused with Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ. He is also known by the names Lebbæus and Thaddæus and again should not be confused with another Jude also known as Thaddeus belonging to the Seventy Apostles, which because of the same name, many writers on the lives of the Apostles have confused and merged the events of one with the other making it difficult for readers to distinguish who did what. St Jude of the Twelve Apostles was the son of Joseph the betrothed, in other words the husband of Mary the Mother of God, from his first wife Salome. Joseph and Salome had four sons James, Joses, Simon, and Judas. (Matth. 13: 54-55)
In the listings of the Apostles by the Evangelists, Matthew names him as Lebbæus whose surname was Thaddæus, Mark as Thaddæus, and Luke as Judas the brother of James. Judas himself, to note his relationship with his brother, in his General Epistle of Jude, calls himself Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James. He could have called himself Jude the Lord’s brother just as James did, but he chose not to out of humility and shame, believing that he was unworthy of such a honourable title, because he did not believe in Christ the Lord at the very beginning.
The Holy Apostle John the Theologian writes in his Gospel, ... neither did his brethren believe in Him” (John. 7:5).
Tradition says that when Joseph returned from Egypt, he began to divide his possessions among his sons. He wanted to allot a share to Christ the Saviour, born miraculously from the All-Pure Virgin Mary just as he was doing for his other children. The brothers, including Jude, were opposed to this because Jesus was born of another mother. Only James, later called The Brother of God,” voluntarily shared out his portion and laid some aside for Jesus.
We don’t know how and why Jude suddenly changed and believed that his step brother was the Messiah, but he must have been more than convinced to leave everything and follow his younger brother Jesus. His life near to Christ was similar to all the other Apostles. After Pentecost he preached the Gospel around Judea, Galilee, Samaria and Idumaia, and later in the lands of Arabia, Syria and Mesopotamia. After this he visited Edessa and while he was preaching in the region around Mount Ararat in Armenia, he was seized by the pagans, crucified and shot through with arrows around the year 80AD.
There is a tradition that St Jude also went to Persia, where he wrote his catholic Epistle in Greek. The Epistle is only one chapter, but in a few words, Jude speaks about the Holy Trinity, about the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, about the good and bad angels, and about the dread Last Judgment. The Apostle urges believers to guard themselves against fleshly impurity, to be diligent in prayer, faith and love, and guarding themselves from the teachings of heretics. The Church commemorates St Jude on the 19th June.
As already said, Judas or Thaddaeus of the Twelve Apostles is often confused with Thaddaeus one of the Seventy Apostles. I think the confusion comes not only in the similarity of their names but also because they are both linked with the city of Edessa. Jude (Thaddeus) of the Twelve received martyrdom in this city, but Thaddeus of the Seventy came from Edessa. He was a Jew well educated in the Holy Scriptures and had come to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage during the time of St. John the Baptist. When he heard John’s preaching and saw his angelic life, he was so impressed that he received baptism from him. Later, when he heard Jesus preaching and saw the Lord’s miracles he became a follower of Christ and is numbered among the Seventy who Jesus appointed and sent two by two before his face into every city and place, where he himself would later go. (Luke 10: 1)
After His glorious Resurrection and Ascension, the Lord sent Thaddaeus to Edessa, Thaddaeus’ birthplace, according to the promise He gave to Prince Abgar at the time when He sent the napkin with His face on it. The napkin is known as the Holy Mandilion, the Icon not made by hands, which the Church celebrates on the 16th August.
The Tradition of the Mandilion tells of a certain Prince Abgar of Edessa, who was riddled with leprosy. He heard of Christ, the Healer of every pain and sickness, and sent a portrait-painter, Ananias, to Palestine with a letter to Christ, in which he begged the Lord to come to Edessa and heal him of his leprosy. In the event of the Lord not being able to come, the prince commanded Ananias to paint His likeness and bring it, believing that the portrait would heal him. The Lord replied that he could not come, as the time of His Passion was at hand, and He took a napkin and wiped His face, leaving a perfect reproduction of His most pure face on the napkin. The Lord gave this napkin to Ananias, and on receiving the napkin, Abgar kissed it and the leprosy fell from his body, but not completely. A little leprosy still remained on his face.
When St. Thaddaeus returned to Edessa and appeared before Abgar, he received him with great joy. The apostle of Christ instructed him in the true faith and after that baptized him. When the baptized Abgar came out of the water, the remaining leprosy fell from him and he was completely healed. Glorifying God, Prince Abgar also wanted that his people should know the true God and to glorify Him. The prince assembled all the citizens of Edessa before the holy Apostle Thaddaeus to hear him preach about Christ. Hearing the words of the apostle and seeing their prince miraculously healed, the people rejected the idols, embraced the Faith of Christ and were baptized. Thus, the city of Edessa was illumined by the Faith of Christ. After Edessa, Thaddeus went and preached the Gospel in the towns of Syria and Phoenicia where he enlightened and baptised many into the Christian faith. He founded many Churches and finally reposed peacefully in the city of Beirut. His feastday is celebrated on the 21st August.
But what happened to the Mandilion?
Tradition says that prince Abgar smashed the idols that stood at the city's gateway and placed the napkin with the face of Christ above the entrance, stuck onto wood, surrounded with a gold frame and ornamented with pearls. The prince also wrote above the icon on the gateway: ‘O Christ our God, no-one who hopes in Thee will be put to shame’. Later, one of Abgar’s great-grandsons restored idolatry, and the Bishop of Edessa came by night and walled-in the icon above the gateway. Centuries passed. In the time of the Emperor Justinian, the Persian King, Chozroes, attacked Edessa, and the city was in great affliction. The Bishop of Edessa, Eulabius, had a vision of the most holy Mother of God, who revealed to him the secret of the Icon, walled-in and forgotten. The Icon was found, and by its power the Persian army was defeated.
After many years, the Mandilion was taken to the Church of Blachanae in Constantinople where it remained until the sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders [Knights Templar] in 1204. Among the many relics that were sacked by the Crusaders, the Mandilion must also have been among them.
Ian Wilson in his book on the Turin Shroud has suggested that what the Orthodox Church treasured as the Mandilion could very well be what is now known as the Turin Shroud.
Whether the Shroud is the Mandilion is something for the historians to prove. What we the Orthodox do know is that the Mandilion and the Shroud were two different things. There is documented evidence that the Shroud was known as the Shroud in Constantinople before 1204. In 1203, a French soldier with the Crusaders camped in Constantinople (who were responsible for the sack of the city the following year) noted that a church there exhibited every Friday the cloth in which Christ was buried, and “his figure could be plainly seen there” (de Clari 1936:112).
There is enough evidence to prove that the Shroud was exhibited full length so there is no way the Byzantines could have mistaken the Shroud as the Mandilion, but knew what they had in their possession was the actual Shroud in which Christ was buried. After the fall of Constantinople in 1204, the Shroud disappeared and there is no record of it until after 150 years when it was found in the possession of Geoffroy de Charny in Lirey about 1355.
Having then seen the lives of St. Jude of the twelve Apostles and Thaddeus of the Seventy, we will now turn our attention on the life of Jude’s brother James even though he is not considered an Apostle. St. James, the Lord’s Brother, as already mentioned in the life of St Jude, was the son of righteous Joseph. He is called the Lord’s Brother for three reasons: 1) because indeed he was the Lord’s stepbrother; 2) because he was not numbered in the ranks of the Twelve Apostles and didn’t have the privilege to be called an Apostle and so was given the title “the Brother of God” and 3) because he greatly loved Jesus and made him an heir of their fathers possessions when the other three brothers denied to do the same. For this unselfish act of righteousness he is also called James the Just.
From the beginning, James was devoted to the Lord Jesus. According to tradition, he travelled to Egypt with the Most-holy Virgin and Joseph, when Herod sought to slay the newborn King. Later, as soon as he heard Christ's teaching, James lived by it. It is said of him that he never ate fat or oil, but lived on just bread and water, and was a virgin to the end of his life on earth. He often kept vigil at night and prayed to God. In the Gospel according to St. Mark, during Christ’s crucifixion, he says that there were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome. Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, is none other than Mary the Mother of God who was legally considered their mother. Here James is called the Less to distinguish him from the other James, the brother of John the Theologian, who as one of the twelve Apostles was considered the greater.
Now after the resurrection, the Lord appeared to James while he was on his own as St. Paul testifies in his Epistle to the Corinthians. (15:7) He was ordained the First Bishop of Jerusalem and zealously governed the Church of God for thirty years. He was present at the first Apostolic Council where the question of circumcision for the gentiles was raised. After much discussion James said it was not necessary to burden the gentiles with the law that was given to the Jews. In the Acts of the Apostles, James is quoted as saying: “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.”
At the instruction of the Lord, James compiled the first Divine Liturgy, which seemed very long for later Christians, and St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom shortened it, which gave us the Liturgies of Sts. Basil and John Chrysostom. In many places the Liturgy of St. James is still served on his Feast day 23rd October and on the second day of Christmas. As a Liturgy it is of great importance because it has preserved the way Christians worshipped in Apostolic times.
James converted many Jews and Greeks to the Christian Faith, and even the unbelieving Jews were amazed at his righteousness. The Jewish elders decided that he had to be stopped and made plans to kill James for being a preacher of Christ. Once, during the feast of Passover, when many people had gathered in Jerusalem, the elders forced James to climb onto the roof of the Temple, and ordered him to speak against Christ. He climbed up and spoke to the people of Christ as the Son of God and the true Messiah, of His Resurrection and His eternal glory in the heavens. The infuriated priests and elders tied a rope around his neck and hanged him off the roof of the temple then, seeing that he was still alive, they stoned him until he gave up the spirit. Thus, James died a martyr’s death and went to live eternally in the Kingdom of his brother and Lord.
Apart from writing the First Divine Liturgy, James also wrote an Epistle. In his Epistle he begins by teaching on the various kinds of temptations: which temptations God allows man to suffer and which are brought about by man’s own desires. He teaches that Christians ought to show their faith not only in words but mostly in deeds. He commands that in Church, rich men should not be preferred above the poor but to treat all men as equal. He gives warnings on many things like judging one’s brother, on boasting, on restraining one’s tongue and the rewards of earthly riches. Towards the end of his Epistle, he comforts those who have been dealt with unjustly urging them to endure with patience the second coming of Christ showing them with the example of Job how patience is a virtue. St. James is especially commemorated during the Service of Holy Unction which is offered for the sick and is usually served twice a year for everyone as a preparation for Holy Communion before Christmas and on the evening of Great Wednesday before the celebration of the Mystical Supper on Holy Thursday morning. During the service there are seven Apostle readings, Seven Gospel readings and seven long prayers. The first of the Apostle readings belongs to the Epistle of St. James and says: “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the presbyters of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
Thus with these words, St. James gives us direction on how to be purified and on the healing of the soul from the passions. He stresses the value and need for the presence of a priest who has the role of a therapist and the use of material things such as oil which is sanctified and through it is transferred the healing grace of God.
By Presbyters or elders, James is referring to the priests. The official title of a priest is actually Presbyter and unless a priest have been given an honorary title like Protopresbyter of Oikonomos, then he is officially addressed as Presbyter and signs his name using the title presbyter.
Another of Joseph’s sons was also one of the Seventy Apostles. In the Gospels he is named as Joses, but in the Acts of the Apostles he is called Joseph called Barsabas, who was named Justus. (Acts 1: 23) In the acts of the Apostles Judas his brother is also surnamed Barsabas. (Acts 15:22) St. Paul in his Epistle to the Colossians names him as Jesus who is called Justus. (Col. 4:11) Justus together with Matthias were selected as candidates to replace Judas Iscariot the traitor. After praying and casting lots, the other Apostles selected Matthias as the New Apostle. St. Justus preached in Eleutheroupolis where he became bishop and died a martyr. His feast day is commemorated on the 30th October
Thinking on which order to present today’s talk on the Apostles, I wanted the first to have something which would lead me onto the next and so on. Today we began with Jude (Thaddeus) which lead to the other apostle with the same name and then on to Jude’s brothers James and Justus. There are two members of the Twelve Apostles with the name James: James the son of Alphaeus and James the brother of John the Evangelist.
James, the son of Alphaeus, was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was the blood-brother of the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. He was a witness of the true words and miracles of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and a witness of His suffering, Resurrection and Ascension. After the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the lot fell to James to preach the Gospel of Christ in Eleutheroupolis and the surrounding areas, and then in Egypt, where he suffered for his Saviour. With great power in word and in deed, James preached the saving news of the incarnate Word of God, destroying idolatry, driving demons out of men, and healing every infirmity and disease in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. His labour and zeal were crowned with great success. Many pagans came to believe in Christ, churches were built and organized, and priests and bishops were ordained. James suffered in the Egyptian town of Ostracina, being crucified by the pagans. Thus, this great and wonderful apostle of Christ took up his abode in the Heavenly Kingdom, to reign eternally with the King of Glory. St. James Alphaeus is celebrated on the 9th October.
James the brother of John the Evangelist was the son of Zebedee and Salome who was a daughter of St Joseph the Betrothed. Christ then is James’ and John’s uncle for Salome was his step sister. They were from Bethsaida the town of Peter, Andrew and Philip. By trade they were fishermen and together with their father, they had a partnership with Peter. At the invitation of the Lord Jesus, James left the fishermen's net, his father and, together with John, immediately followed after the Lord. He belonged to that trinity of apostles Peter, James and John to whom the Lord revealed the greatest mysteries; they bore witness to the Raising of Jairus’ Daughter, the Lord's Transfiguration on Mount Thabor, and His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
After the Descent of the Holy Spirit, James, preached in Spain and in other lands, and then he returned to Jerusalem. He openly and boldly preached Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world, and he denounced the Pharisees and the Scribes with the words of Holy Scripture, reproaching them for their malice of heart and unbelief. The Jews could not prevail against St James, and so they hired the sorcerer Hermogenes to dispute with the apostle and refute his arguments that Christ was the promised Messiah Who had come into the world. The sorcerer first sent to the apostle his pupil Philip, who was converted to belief in Christ. Then Hermogenes himself became persuaded of the power of God, he burned his books of magic, accepted holy Baptism and became a true follower of Christ. Then the Jews accused him before King Herod Agrippa and persuaded a certain Josias to slander the apostle. Josias, seeing the brave conduct of James and listening to his clear explanation about the truth, repented and believed in Christ. Herod Agrippa then condemned James to death and also Josias. En route to the place of execution, Josias implored James to forgive him the sin of slander. James embraced and kissed him and said: “Peace and forgiveness be to you!” Both of them bowed their heads under the sword and were beheaded for the Lord whom they loved and whom they served. Saint James suffered in Jerusalem in the year 45 A.D. (Acts 12:1-2) before the first apostolic council. His body was later translated to Spain, where miraculous healings occurred over his grave and do so even today. St James was the first of the Apostles to die as a martyr and is commemorated on 30th April.
Which brings us to James’ brother John the Theologian. We have spoken about John before in our talks on the History of the Church when we took a look at the lives of all four Evangelists just before Christmas. Then I covered his life in detail so to say it again today would just be a repeat of what has already been said. Therefore those of you who were not present at the talk or who want to refresh yourselves on what was said can always visit the website (you should know the address by now). The actual talk with St. John’s life is the 5th Talk on the History of mankind and the Church and dated 13/12/07.
Another Apostle with a name beginning with J is Jason. He is commemorated as one of the Seventy Apostles, but there seems to be some confusion by some who say that according to the Acts of the Apostles, Jason could not have been of the company of the Seventy. We first encounter Jason in the Acts where he receives Paul and Silas into his home in Thessalonica. The Jews of Thessalonica arrested Jason and accused him to the rulers of the city that his houseguests were teaching contrary to the decrees of Caesar saying that there is another king called Jesus. The argument is that if Jason was of the Seventy then he must have been a Jew of Palestine and must have been instructed by Christ himself to preach the Good News. Why then did he not prepare the Jews of Thessalonica on the Christian faith before Paul and Silas came to Thessalonica? It is a strong argument suggesting that Jason had never heard of Jesus until he heard about him from Paul. Of course this is not proof that Jason was not of the Seventy: there are too many holes in the stories of the saints which leave a lot of room for hypothesis. Jason could have been in Jerusalem and then moved permanently to Thessalonica just before Paul’s visit, thus not giving him the time needed to preach about Jesus. And just like this hypothesis we can think of many more that might fill the holes in Jason’s story. For this reason I have preferred to give you the official life story as found in the service for his feastday.
His life story is mentioned together with another Apostle of the Seventy Sosipater. St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans calls Jason and Sosipater his relatives (Romans 16:21). This does not necessarily mean that they were actual blood relatives, but that they were brothers in Christ. Jason was born in Tarsus as was the Apostle Paul and Sosipater was born in Achaea. The first was appointed bishop of Tarsus by the Apostle and the other was appointed bishop of Iconium. Traveling about and preaching the Gospel these two Apostles arrived on the island of Corfu, where they succeeded to build a church to the honour of St. Stephen the First-martyr and to win over some heathens to the Church. The king of the island threw them both into prison where seven thieves were also imprisoned. Their names were: Sagornius, Jakishol, Faustian, Januarius, Marsalus, Euphrasius and Mamminus. The Apostles converted these seven to the Faith of Christ and turned these wolves into lambs. Upon hearing this, the king ordered that these seven be put to death in boiling pitch. Thus, they received the wreath of the martyrs. While the king was torturing the apostles, his daughter, the virgin Cercyra, (her name is the same as Corfu in Greek) watched from the window at the suffering of these men of God and learning for what reason they were being tortured, she declared herself a Christian and distributed all of her jewels to the poor. The king became enraged at his daughter and closed her in a special prison. Since he did not succeed to dissuade her from Christ by this imprisonment, he ordered that the prison be burnt. The prison burned, but the virgin remained alive. Upon seeing this miracle many people were baptized. The infuriated king then ordered his daughter to be tied to a tree and Cercyra was slain by arrows. Those who believed in Christ fled from the terrible king to the nearest island and hid themselves. The king pursued them by boat in order to apprehend them, but the boat sank into the sea and thus the unrighteous one perished as did the one-time pharaoh. The new king embraced the Faith of Christ, was baptized and received the name Sebastian. Jason and Sosipater freely preached the Gospel and strengthened the Church of God in Corfu. They lived to a ripe old age and there ended their earthly life and took up habitation in the mansions of the Lord. They are both commemorated on the 29th April together with the maiden Cercyra and the seven converted thieves.