The Feastday of Saint Iakovos (James), the Brother of the Lord

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Second Tone

As the Lord's disciple, O righteous One, you received the Gospel, as Martyr, you have unwavering courage, as the Lord's brother, you have forthrightness, as Hierarch, intercession. Intercede with Christ our God, that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion Hymn. Fourth Tone

O wondrous Iakovos, God the Logos[Word], Only-Begotten of the Father, who dwelt among us in latter days, declared you, the first shepherd and teacher of Jerusalem, and faithful steward of the spiritual mysteries. Wherefore, we all honor you, O Apostle.



By Fr. Sergei V. Bulgakov

One of the Seventy Apostles, in the opinion of the majority of the Holy Fathers of the Church, especially the Eastern, he was the son of Saint Joseph the Betrothed, and needs to be distinguished from James, son of Zebedee (see April 30th) and James, son of Alpheus (see October 9th). As his father Joseph is called the father of Jesus Christ, and thus he is called "the brother of the Lord in the flesh" (Gal. 1:19), and in this sense even the All-Holy Virgin Mary may be called his mother (St. Matt. 13:55; St. Mark 6:3). According to Holy Tradition, he accompanied the All-Holy Theotokos when she with the Baby Jesus and Joseph fled to Egypt from the wrath of Herod (Ref. to December 26th). After the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, he was worthy of the special appearance of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:7).

Saint James was strictly devout from youth. Distinguished by an unusually strict way of life, he observed the strictest fast; neither partook of wine nor meat, nor cut his hair, nor bathed, nor rubbed his body with olive oil, nor wore soft clothes but wore coarse haircloth and frequently prayed with prostrations. In prayer he practiced asceticism with such fervor that a hardened leather formed on his knees, like a camel's, from the frequent prostrations. For such a virtuous life James (Iakovos) was known to all people as the "righteous" or the "Just" one and so earned great respect among the Judaic leaders, that he alone was given permission by the high priest to enter the Holy of Holies, the innermost part of the Jerusalem temple, where Saint James retired for prayer.

Saint James was even more greatly honored in the beginning society by the Christians and he was honored as a pillar of the Church (Gal. 2:9). Holy Tradition holds that, by command of the Lord, he was installed by the Apostles as Bishop of the Jerusalem Church. He presided over the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-21). Saint James spent the whole time of his apostolic service in Jerusalem and many people always gathered around him not only to listen to his words, but also to only touch the edge of his robe.

"Enlightening those in the darkness of cruelty", in his sermons about Christ he successfully excited the attention and envy of the Judaic leaders, who plotted to kill him. With this goal in mind and taking advantage of the absence of Festus, Roman governor in Jerusalem, the enemies of the Christian faith demanded from him that he in the presence of all the multitude of people gathered in Jerusalem for the feat of Passover solemnly confess before all that the Christians are mistaken in believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and forcefully entered the Holy Apostle on the roof of the temple so that all could hear his truthful word. But from the mouth of the holy confessor of the faith in Christ they heard fearlessly before all assembly of the Jews the spoken word about the Divinity of Jesus Christ. Then many believed in Christ, and the Scribes and Pharisees spoke among themselves: "We did poorly, giving Jesus Christ such witness from one respected by all men." Fearing that many will turn away from the faith to his witness, they furiously threw the righteous man off the roof, shouting: "even the righteous has gone astray." Severely injured from falling from that height, Saint James did not suddenly die, but still had the strength to rise on his knees and to pray for his enemies.

Notwithstanding, the cruel Jews stoned him and one of them with a blow to the head ended the life of the holy Confessor and Martyr of Christ. This happened in the year 62 after the Nativity of Christ. The martyr's death of Saint James made such an impression on the minds of the Jews that they considered the afflictions of the war with the Romans and the war itself that befell them (66-70 AD) as the punishment of God for this death. Saint James was sixty-three years old when he suffered for Christ.

The Holy Apostle James (Iakovos) wrote a "Catholic Epistle", which is deeply edifying, where he teaches about the necessity of good works for Christians without which their faith is dead (St. James 11:17 and fol.). The Holy Apostle also composed one of the ancient liturgies.


The general scholarly consensus is that this liturgy originated in Jerusalem during the late 4th or early fifth century. It quickly became the primary liturgy in Jerusalem and Antioch. Although it was later superseded in Jerusalem and Antioch by the Liturgy of Saint Basil and the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, it had already spread to other areas of the Church. The oldest manuscript traditions are in Greek and Syriac, and there are also extant manuscripts in Armenian, Ethiopic, Georgian, and Old Slavonic.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the liturgy is now generally celebrated on the Feast of Saint Iakovos (James), on October 23rd, and only in some parishes and monasteries, particularly in the Jerusalem Patriarchate.


The above account is an abridgement of the information provided in the synaxarion. There are a number of points of interest:

The first is the obvious similarity with Saint John the Baptist. Both were dedicated to God from an early age and may have been Nazirites. They were popular among the people for their virtuous lives and personalities. Both were outspoken in the face of official pressure and both were killed because they represented a threat to the establishment.

Another similarity is with Saint Paul. It is interesting that both Saint James and Saint Paul, who were both steeped in Jewish tradition and law, to the extent that we might expect them to have been died-in-the-wool hard-liners, should have been the so "lenient" towards Gentile converts (Acts 15:20). This is often the way of things: those who are "pharisaical" in their approach to, say, the holy canons stick to the letter of the law, whereas those with a deeper insight look for the spirit. As Elder (Geronda) Paisios of the Holy Mountain used to say: "The canons (rules) shouldn't be cannons (guns) to shoot people with". And, of course, the more flexible approach is only possible from people who have already proved, as Saints Paul and James did, that they were prepared and able to live strictly in accordance with the rules they are prepared to relax for others.

Concerning the martyrdom of Saint James, the brother of the Lord, from Book V. (Source: Hegesippus. Fragments from His Five Books of Commentaries on the Acts of the Church. [Early Christian Writings]

"So, when many even of the ruling class believed, there was a commotion among the Jews, and scribes, and Pharisees, who said: "A little more, and we shall have all the people looking for Jesus Christ.

They came, therefore, in a body to James, and said: "We entreat thee, restrain the people: for they are gone astray in their opinion about Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat thee to persuade all who have come here for the day of the Passover, concerning Jesus. For we all listen to thy persuasion; since we, as well as well as all the people, bear thee testimony that thou art just, and showest partiality to none. Do thou, therefore, persuade the people not to entertain erroneous opinions concerning Jesus: for all the people, and we also, listen to thy persuasion. Take thy stand, then, upon the summit of the temple, that from that elevated spot thou mayest be clearly seen, and thy words may be plainly audible to all the people. For, in order to attend the Passover, all the tribes have congregated here, and some of the Gentiles also."

The aforesaid scribes and Pharisees accordingly set James on the summit of the temple, and cried aloud to him, and said: "O just one, whom we are all bound to obey, forasmuch as the people is in error, and follows Jesus the crucified, do thou tell us what is the door of Jesus, the crucified." And he answered with a loud voice: "Why ask ye me concerning Jesus the Son of man? He Himself sitteth in heaven, at the right hand of the Great Power, and shall come on the clouds of heaven."



The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George