Today’s Feast of Ss. Phillip and James the Less is a continued remembrance of the fact that the blood of martyrs is the seed of our Christian faith. The faith that you and I have inherited has been handed down (tradere) through the centuries by the lives and deaths of so many martyrs. In this free world, it is very easy to opine and think and express whatever one wants. However, we cannot let wolves in sheep clothing talk whatever they want, defiling the faith that these apostles have safely handed down to us. The apostles have taught and imparted the unique experience of Jesus, who is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. Phillip, in today’s question, earnestly seeks to understand the Father. Jesus replies that he who sees HIM sees the Father.
The early fathers of the Church point to the fact that the first Bishop of Jerusalem was St. James the Less. He was recognized as the first Bishop by the Apostles themselves. When he was brought before the sanhedrin and was adjudged to be stoned to death, James spoke of the profound experience of Jesus, who ascended and is seated at the right hand of the Father and will come again to judge the quick and the dead. He was stoned to death as he testified to his faith in Jesus.
The UECNA has the Jerusalem cross on its crest and on the flag. The Jerusalem cross is one main cross surrounded by four smaller crosses on its four sides. The main cross signifies the Cross of our Savior and the four small crosses denote the four Gospels. Jesus’ commission to his followers was that, beginning from Jerusalem, the Gospels must be preached to all nations.
Jerusalem is also connected in a significant way to UECNA in the line of apostolic tradition. Our Presiding Bishop, Stephen C. Reber, comes down the great apostolic line of succession which has two streams blending into one — namely, the Canterbury one and the Welsh one. St. David of Wales was consecrated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem John III, who had his apostolic succession starting from St. James the Less himself. Although he is called St. James the Less, he is in no way “lesser” than any of the apostles in meeting with the criterion that he had lived with and seen the Risen Lord and laid down his life for his faith.
Whenever we have an opportunity to stand for THE TRUTH, THE WAY AND THE LIFE, we need to defend it with all our might. Defending the faith is also an aspect of growing in the faith, and we have St. James the Less and the other apostles to look to for inspiration.