The Twenty-Third Day of the Month of October: the Life and Passion of the Holy Apostle James

Apostle James, the Brother of the Lord

Apostle James, the Brother of the Lord

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


Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Apostle. Fourth Mode

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.

Kontation Hymn. Fourth Mode

O wondrous Iakovos, God the Logos, 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.


Saint James was the son of Saint Joseph, the betrothed of the Most Pure Virgin (The Oikos in The Menaion). From his youth he loved the ascetic life: he never partook of butter or oil and ate nothing but bread; neither did he drink wine nor any other sort of strong drink but only water. He did not frequent bathhouses, and he disdained every comfort of the flesh. He wore a rough hair shirt upon his body and passed each night in prayer, sleeping very little. The skin on his knees became as tough as a camel's because of the numerous prostrations which he made, and he preserved his virginity undefiled until the day of his death.

The following is written concerning the name given him, "The Brother of God" (The Prologue and The Menaion). When Joseph the Betrothed divided his land among the children his first wife had borne him, he wished to give a parcel to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most Pure Virgin, his betrothed. At that time Jesus was yet a babe, and Joseph's sons would not consent to this. Nevertheless, James agreed to give a portion of his inheritance to the Lord, and because of this he came to be called the Brother of God. This name was also given to him for the following reason. After the birth of Christ the Lord, the Most Pure Virgin Theotokos fled with the Savior to Egypt. James departed with them at that time also, accompanying the Most Pure Mother of God and Saint Joseph, his father (The Aposticha at Vespers from The Menaion).

When the divine Infant Christ Jesus reached manhood, began to teach the people of the Kingdom of God, and was revealed as the True Messiah, then it was that Saint James believed in Him. As he hearkened unto Christ's divine words, his heart was inflamed yet more with the love of God, and he began to live a still more severe life. Moreover, it is clear that the Lord especially loved the Apostle James. His beloved brother, for after His voluntary Passion and Resurrection, Christ the Lord appeared separately to him, apart from the other disciples. It is of this appearance that the Apostle Paul speaks when he says, "After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles" (1 Cor. ch. 15).

Saint James was called "The Righteous One," for all bore witness to his righteous and God-pleasing life (Saint Dorotheos, bishop of Tyre). He was numbered among the Seventy Apostles, was made a bishop, and was instructed in the performance of the sacred rites by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Stichera at Vespers from The Menaion). The newly-enlightened Church of Jerusalem was entrusted to him, and he became its first hierarch and pastor. He also composed the first Liturgy, which he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (The Prologue and The Menaion). Later, out of condescension toward the weakness of men, Saint Basil the Great and Saint John Chrysostom shortened this service. As the pastor of Christ's flock in Jerusalem, Saint James led many Jews and Greeks unto God by his teaching, directing them along the path of salvation. He wrote to the twelve tribes of Israel a general epistle (letter), which is filled with divinely inspired and exceedingly profitable teaching. This epistle (letter) is the adornment of the whole Church of Christ and instructs us both to have faith and to do good works. Because of his virtuous life, Saint James was held in great honor by all, the faithful and unbelievers alike. The high priests of the Jews themselves entered the Holy of Holies only once a year to perform their service, but they and the priests did not forbid Saint James to enter therein frequently to pray, for they saw that his life was pure and blameless. Moreover, they began to call him by another name, Obli (or Ophli), which means "the defense of men" or "the confirmation of men" or "he who is righteous above all" (Metaphrastes). The Saint would enter the Holy of Holies not only during the daytime but by night as well, and falling to the floor, he would offer God prayer for the whole world. He was loved by the people for his sanctity, and many of the elders of the Jews came to believe through his teaching. Some of the people wished to hear his words while others sought merely to touch the fringe of his garment.

Now at that time Ananias became High Priest, and he, the Pharisees, and the scribes saw that all the people hearkened unto James' teaching and that many had turned to Christ. Smitten with jealousy, they became wroth with the Saint and considered how they might do him harm and slay him. They determined to ask the Saint to speak to the people and to lead them away from Christ. If he would not consent to do this, their intention was to put him to death.

As the feast of the Passover approached, people from every city and land began arriving in Jerusalem for the festival. Festus, who had delivered St. Paul out of the hands of the Jews, died a short time before, and a new procurator had not arrived from Rome to replace him. The scribes and Pharisees gathered about Saints James in the temple and said, "O most venerable one! We entreat you to address the people on the day of the feast when a multitude of people will assemble here from throughout the world. Turn them away from Jesus, for they have been led astray and say that He is the Son of God. Instruct them in the truth, that they not remain in their error. We revere you and heed you, as do all the people. We are prepared to bear witness concerning you, that you speak nothing but the truth and are no respecter of persons. Exhort the people, then, not to be deceived by Jesus, Who was crucified. We ask you to go up to the summit of the temple, where all can see and hear you, and to speak from there, for as you see, many people have gathered together here, both Israelites and gentiles."

When they had said this, the scribes and Pharisees led St. James up to the pinnacle of the temple and shouted, "O Most Righteous One, we all have trust in you! This people has gone astray and follows after Jesus, Who was crucified. Tell us what you truly think concerning Him."

The Saint cried out with a great voice, "Why do you question me concerning the Son of Man, Who willingly suffered, was crucified, buried, and arose from the grave on the third day? He is now seated in the heavens on the right hand of the Most High and will come again upon the clouds of heaven to judge the living and the dead."

The people rejoiced greatly when they heard St. James bear witness to Christ Jesus thus, and they shouted with a single voice, "Glory to God; hosanna to the Son of David!"

The Pharisees and scribes then muttered, "We have not done well to permit James to speak of Jesus: he has only stirred up the people more."

Filled with wrath, they cast James down from the summit of the temple, that all the people might fear them and be stricken with terror and that the crowd might not believe James' words (Metaphrastes). "The Righteous One has been deceived," they cried out vehemently.

When Saint James struck the ground, his bones were shattered, but he remained alive. He lifted himself up on his knees, raised his hands, and prayed, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge, for they know not what they do."

The Pharisees and the scribes began to cast stones at the Saint, further wounding him. One of the sons of Rechab then cried, "Cease! The Righteous One prays for you, and you stone him?"

Immediately one of the Pharisees took a fuller's club and fell upon the Saint, striking his head with all his might and shattering it." His brains were spilt upon the ground, and thus the Apostle surrendered his soul in martyrdom unto the Lord. The year was A.D. 62. His sacred body was buried near the temple, and the faithful wept greatly over him. Saint James was the Bishop of Jerusalem for thirty years, and he was sixty-six years old when he suffered for Christ the Lord. To Him be honor and glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen.


(Date: A.D. 55-60.)

Major Theme: The harmony of faith and works. The letter has many direct parallels with the Sermon on the Mount. Saint James does not teach that we are saved by works, but he does teach that a dead faith, one without works, does not save. This is an early polemic against invisible religion, or mental faith, wherein salvation by faith does not require visible works; and against antinomianism, the teaching that moral behavior is irrelevant to salvation. Saint James is clear: the human will is not bypassed in salvation; grace does not nullify personal responsibility. (Source: Orthodox Study Bible)



"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe-- and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead."

Commentary 2:14-19. The faith that saves is a complete faith: not just the mind believing and the tongue confessing, but the whole man trusting in the living God. This means

our faith grows and affects our actions or it dies. "Faith alone" (by itself, v. 17) static faith, does not save. We must nurture our faith in God and love Him through our works. This point is well made by Saint Maximus the Confessor (580-662 A.D.), "Do not say you are the temple of the Lord; nor you should say that faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ can save you, for this is impossible unless you acquire love for Him through your works. As for faith by itself, 'the devils also believe, and tremble." (Philokalia, Vol. II p. 56).

(Source: Orthodox Study Bible, page 543)



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.


Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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

+Father George