Archive for the ‘Christian Saints and Feasts’ Category

Mary, mother of Jesus

Virgin & Child with angelsMary (Greek: Μαρία, translit. María; Aramaic: ܡܪܝܡ‎, translit. Mariam‎; Hebrew: מִרְיָם‎, translit. Miriam‎; Arabic: مريم‎, translit. Mariam‎), also known by various titles, styles and honorifics, was a 1st-century Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth, and the mother of Jesus, according to the New Testament and the Quran.

The gospels of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament and the Quran describe Mary as a virgin (Greek: παρθένος, translit. parthénos) and Christians believe that she conceived her son while a virgin by the Holy Spirit. The miraculous conception took place when she was already betrothed to Joseph and was awaiting the concluding rite of marriage, the formal home-taking ceremony. She married Joseph and accompanied him to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.

The Gospel of Luke begins its account of Mary’s life with the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced her divine selection to be the mother of Jesus. According to canonical gospel accounts, Mary was present at the crucifixion and is depicted as a member of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. According to the Catholic and Orthodox teaching, at the end of her earthly life her body was assumed directly into Heaven; this is known in the Christian West as the Assumption.

Mary has been venerated since early Christianity, and is considered by millions to be the most meritorious saint of the religion. She is claimed to have miraculously appeared to believers many times over the centuries. The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches believe that Mary, as mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God (Greek: Θεοτόκος, translit. Theotokos, lit. ‘God-bearer’). There is significant diversity in the Marian beliefs and devotional practices of major Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church holds distinctive Marian dogmas, namely her status as the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her perpetual virginity, and her Assumption into heaven. Many Protestants minimize Mary’s role within Christianity, based on the argued brevity of biblical references. Mary (Arabic: مريم‎, translit. Maryām‎) also has a revered position in Islam, where one of the longer chapters of the Quran is devoted to her.

Saint Lawrence

Lawrence before ValerianusSt. Lawrence is thought to have been born on 26 December AD 225 in Valencia, or less probably, in Huesca, the town from which his parents came in the later region of Aragon that was then part of the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis. The martyrs St. Orentius (Modern Spanish: San Orencio) and St. Patientia (Modern Spanish: Santa Paciencia) are traditionally held to have been his parents.

He encountered the future Pope St. Sixtus II, who was of Greek origin and one of the most famous and highly esteemed teachers, in Caesaraugusta (today Zaragoza). Eventually, both left Spain for Rome. When Sixtus became the Pope in 257, he ordained St. Lawrence as a deacon, and though Lawrence was still young appointed him first among the seven deacons who served in the patriarchal church. He is therefore called “archdeacon of Rome”, a position of great trust that included the care of the treasury and riches of the Church and the distribution of alms to the indigent.

St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, notes that Roman authorities had established a norm according to which all Christians who had been denounced must be executed and their goods confiscated by the Imperial treasury. At the beginning of August 258, the Emperor Valerian issued an edict that all bishops, priests, and deacons should immediately be put to death. Pope St. Sixtus II was captured on 6 August 258, at the cemetery of St. Callixtus while celebrating the liturgy and executed forthwith.

After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that St. Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. St. Ambrose is the earliest source for the narrative that St. Lawrence asked for three days to gather the wealth. He worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the indigent as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to deliver the treasures of the Church he presented the indigent, the crippled, the blind, and the suffering, and declared that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, “The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor.” This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom and can be compared to the parallel Roman tale of the jewels of Cornelia.

On 10 August, St. Lawrence, the last of the seven deacons, and therefore, the ranking Church official, suffered a martyr’s death.

Transfiguration of Jesus

Jesus' TransfigurationThe Transfiguration of Jesus is an event reported in the New Testament when Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant in glory upon a mountain. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36) describe it, and the Second Epistle of Peter also refers to it (2 Peter 1:16–18). It has also been hypothesized that the first chapter of the Gospel of John alludes to it (John 1:14).

In these accounts, Jesus and three of his apostles, Peter, James, John, go to a mountain (the Mount of Transfiguration) to pray. On the mountain, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. Then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to him and he speaks with them. Jesus is then called “Son” by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God the Father, as in the Baptism of Jesus.

Many Christian traditions, including the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, commemorate the event in the Feast of the Transfiguration, a major festival.

James the Apostle

James, son of Zebedee (Hebrew: יַעֲקֹב‎ Yaʿqob, Greek: Ἰάκωβος; died 44 AD) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and traditionally considered the first apostle to be martyred. He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of John the Apostle. He is also called James the Greater or James the Great to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus and James the brother of Jesus (James the Just). James the son of Zebedee is the patron saint of Spaniards, and as such is often identified as Santiago.

The son of Zebedee and Salome, James is styled “the Greater” to distinguish him from the Apostle James “the Less”. He was the brother of John, the beloved disciple, and probably the elder of the two.

His parents seem to have been people of means. Zebedee, his father, was a fisherman of the Sea of Galilee, who probably lived in or near Bethsaida, present Galilee, Israel, perhaps in Capernaum, and had some boatmen or hired men. Salome, his mother, was one of the pious women who afterwards followed Christ and “ministered unto him of their substance”, and his brother John was personally known to the high-priest, and must have had wherewithal to provide for the Mother of Jesus.

It is probable that his brother had not received the technical training of the rabbinical schools; in this sense they were unlearned and without any official position among the Jews. But, according to the social rank of their parents, they must have been men of ordinary education, in the common walks of Jewish life. James is described as one of the first disciples to join Jesus. The Synoptic Gospels state that James and John were with their father by the seashore when Jesus called them to follow him. [Matt. 4:21-22][Mk. 1:19-20] James was one of only three apostles whom Jesus selected to bear witness to his Transfiguration. James and John (or, in another tradition, their mother) asked Jesus to grant them seats on his right and left in his glory. Jesus rebuked them, and the other ten apostles were annoyed with them. James and his brother wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan town, but were rebuked by Jesus. [Lk 9:51-6] The Acts of the Apostles records that “Herod the king” (traditionally identified with Herod Agrippa) had James executed by sword. He is the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament. He is, thus, traditionally believed to be the first of the twelve apostles martyred for his faith. [Acts 12:1-2] Nixon suggests that this may have been caused by James’ fiery temper, for which he and his brother earned the nickname Boanerges or “Sons of Thunder”. [Mark 3:17] F. F. Bruce contrasts this story to that of the Liberation of Saint Peter, and notes that “James should die while Peter should escape” is a “mystery of divine providence”.

The English name “James” comes from Italian “Giacomo”, a variant of “Giacobo” derived from Iacobus (Jacob) in Latin, itself from the Greek Ἰάκωβος “Iakōbos”, from Hebrew יַעֲקֹב. In French, Jacob evolves into “Jacques”. In eastern Spain, Iacobus (Jacobus) became “Jacome” or “Jaime”; in Catalan language, it became “Jaume”. Santiago is the local Galician or Spanish (Castilian) evolution of Vulgar Latin Sanctu Iacobu “Saint James”. “Tiago” is a popular deglutination native to Portuguese language (santiago > san-tiago = São Tiago); it crossed with old Diago to give “Diego” in Spanish and “Diogo” in Portuguese, which is also the Spanish name of Saint Didacus of Alcalá.[citation needed] For example, Miguel de Cervantes in his famous Don Quixote uses “San Diego” instead of “Santiago”.

Saint Christopher

Saint Christopher (Greek: Ἅγιος Χριστόφορος, Ágios Christóforos) is venerated by several Christian denominations as a martyr killed in the reign of the 3rd-century Roman Emperor Decius (reigned 249–251) or alternatively under the Roman Emperor Maximinus II Dacian (reigned 308–313). There appears to be confusion due to the similarity in names “Decius” and “Dacian”. However his veneration only appears late in Christian tradition, and did not become widespread in the Western Church until the Late Middle Ages, although churches and monasteries were named after him by the 7th century.

It is disputed whether Christopher existed, and if so whether the name applied to a specific person or was a general title meaning “Christ-bearer” which was applied to several different real or legendary people. He may be the same figure as Saint Menas. His most famous legend, which is mainly known from the West and may draw from Ancient Greek mythology, tells that he carried a child, who was unknown to him, across a river before the child revealed himself as Christ. Therefore, he is the patron saint of travelers, and small images of him are often worn around the neck, on a bracelet, carried in a pocket, or placed in vehicles by Christians.

There are several legends associated with the life and death of Saint Christopher which first appeared in Greece and had spread to France by the 9th century. The 11th-century bishop and poet, Walter of Speyer, gave one version, but the most popular variations originated from the 13th-century Golden Legend.

According to the legendary account of his life Christopher was initially called Reprobus. He was a Canaanite, 5 cubits (7.5 feet (2.3 m)) tall and with a fearsome face. While serving the king of Canaan, he took it into his head to go and serve “the greatest king there was”. He went to the king who was reputed to be the greatest, but one day he saw the king cross himself at the mention of the devil. On thus learning that the king feared the devil, he departed to look for the devil. He came across a band of marauders, one of whom declared himself to be the devil, so Christopher decided to serve him. But when he saw his new master avoid a wayside cross and found out that the devil feared Christ, he left him and enquired from people where to find Christ. He met a hermit who instructed him in the Christian faith. Christopher asked him how he could serve Christ. When the hermit suggested fasting and prayer, Christopher replied that he was unable to perform that service. The hermit then suggested that because of his size and strength Christopher could serve Christ by assisting people to cross a dangerous river, where they were perishing in the attempt. The hermit promised that this service would be pleasing to Christ.

After Christopher had performed this service for some time, a little child asked him to take him across the river. During the crossing, the river became swollen and the child seemed as heavy as lead, so much that Christopher could scarcely carry him and found himself in great difficulty. When he finally reached the other side, he said to the child: “You have put me in the greatest danger. I do not think the whole world could have been as heavy on my shoulders as you were.” The child replied: “You had on your shoulders not only the whole world but Him who made it. I am Christ your king, whom you are serving by this work.” The child then vanished.

Christopher later visited Lycia and there comforted the Christians who were being martyred. Brought before the local king, he refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods. The king tried to win him by riches and by sending two beautiful women to tempt him. Christopher converted the women to Christianity, as he had already converted thousands in the city. The king ordered him to be killed. Various attempts failed, but finally Christopher was beheaded.