Fr Michael Templin

Feast of Ss. Simon & Jude


The feast of Saints’ Simon and Jude has been observed at least since the days of St. Jerome, where it appears in his lectionary - which means it was already being observed in some parts of the church prior to that. The saints are honored with their own feasts days in May and June in the Eastern Church, but in the Western Calendar they are honored together as Martyrs. One the reasons these two saints are honored together in our Calendar is that they were brothers, both sons of Cleophas and Mary Clopas, and thus the nephews of St. Joseph, with Mary Clopas being the Virgin Mary’s Sister-in-Law. Likewise, brothers of James the Less and therefore, cousins or “brethren” of our Lord as we read about the Gospels. In Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord of the Apostolic Father Papias of Hierapolis, who lived around 70-163 AD, explained Mary of Cleophas was be the mother of James the Just, Simon, Judas (identified as Jude the Apostle), and Joseph (Joses). Papias also identifies this Mary as the sister of Mary, mother of Jesus, and as the maternal aunt of Jesus. This is confirmed by St. Jerome (On the Perpetual Virginity) and by ancient church historian Eusebius of Caesarea.  

Of St. Simon, John Henry Blunt, mentions, that some early Greek writers claim that he visited Britain as was martyred there by crucifixion, probably at the hands of the Romans. But, other accounts have him ministering in Persia and being sawn in half by Pagan Magi with his brother St. Jude, who was also the author of the short Epistle in the New Testament, also being martyred Either way, both were martyrs of Jesus Christ and  their relics were translated shortly after to Rome at St. Peter’s where now the remains of SS Simon and Jude rest in the same tomb, next to their uncle St. Joseph. Thus, we wear liturgical red today in the honor of the blood of Martyrs and therefore, the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

We observe multiple festivals of the saints during the Christian year. As the Christian Calendar developed the first feasts came from the Jewish Calendar - Pascha or Easter, Pentecost, and  then Ascension Day was based upon these. The feast of the Lord’s Incarnation, developing around the Annunciation on March 25 was then observed and then Christmas nine-months later. But, incredibly early on liturgical scholars observe the widespread commemoration of the martyrs - the remains of the martyred were tended to, revered, and treated with the utmost measure of honor. We must remember that many of the earliest churches were found in catacombs. The church worshiped amongst her dead and altars were literally built over the remains of their brothers and sisters who gave their lives even to the point of death, to imitate Christ Jesus who gave himself for the life of the world. Their feasts were generally kept of the date of their martyrdom (heavenly birthday). We must note that this was not some early Christian occurrence either, but grew naturally out of Judaism. We read in the account 2 Maccabees Chap. 7, perhaps the first martyrology: seven sons terribly martyred in front of their mother for following YHWH’s Covenant  and not bowing down to the false gods and rulers of the Greeks - these martyrs are likewise remembered in by St. Paul in his “Cloud of Witnesses” in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Also, in the 12th chapter the remains of fallen Jewish soldiers were carefully tended too, prayed for, and gathered to be laid amongst the ancestral graves. This is the practice of the early church.

The Holy Gospel today, for the feast of SS. Simon and Jude, comes from John 15. Jesus contends for his people to follow him, even in opposition and trial: “If the world hates you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” The world hated SS. Simon and Jude, the world hated SS. Peter and Paul, the world hated S. John the Baptist...the world hated Jesus. The world put them to death, the world persecuted what was holy, and tried to extinguish the “Marvelous Light” that God had brought into the world in Christ Jesus. But, beloved, Jesus has overcome the world. He has overcome death, and he has conquered hell. The old will pass away and a new Kingdom has been inaugurated in the midst of this present evil age. Therefore, let us keep the faith, let us not been given over to a spirit of fear, and let us crucify the flesh and live in the reality of the work of Christ. SS. Simon and Jude are witnesses of Jesus - let us look to them in our missionary endeavors. They followed Christ to the end of their lives, and have been given a martyr's crown in return and will experience the bliss of the resurrection - eternal life.

As we remember them at the altar this evening, remember that we are participating in this Holy Communion with them. “Therefore with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven…” Likewise, let us “follow their good examples that with them we may be partakers of God’s heavenly kingdom.” As our collect so beautifully teaches us, “O ALMIGHTY God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone; Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

No Man Can Serve Two Masters

The Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity

Today our Epistle Lesson comes from the 6th Chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. The Epistle was composed around 47-49 AD after Paul’s first missionary journey, but before the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. This is one of the earliest Pauline letters, most important theologically, and one of the most widely distributed - “Galatians is quoted or alluded to in 1 Peter, Barnabas, 1 Clement, Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. Both Marcion’s and the Muratorian canon list it.” (D. Wallace)

This short letter was one of the most important to Martin Luther and the Reformation of the Church. Major themes like “Justification by faith and not works of the Law” were a major influence on Luther and his contemporaries, as they saw the Roman Catholics of their day as the Judaizers of St. Paul’s day - adding rules, requirements, and religious regulation to the “pure” Gospel that St. Paul was preaching. Much academic work, especially in Jewish backgrounds of the New Testament, has been done since the 16th Century and in some ways it has cast doubt on some interpretations of the reformers. Regardless of particular Jewish customs, beliefs, and practises,  there still stands a bold premise in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians that speaks to every place and time: “Do not let anyone compel you to do anything except boast in the Cross of Christ.”

In Galatians 6:11 we read, “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.” Now, this might seem a bit of an odd way for our epistle to begin today, but, just as St. Paul defended his Apostleship in Chaps.  1-2 we now see Paul saying: “I’m writing this with my own hand….this is not an emanuences, this is not a follower of me, this is the genuine Paul your bishop - you can trust what I am about to say.” Paul then addresses a powerful group which I mentioned earlier -  the Judaizers. He writes in Vs. 12-13, “Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.” The Judaizers were compelling Gentile converts to be circumcised before they could come into fellowship with the church. Once they were circumcised then gentiles were compelled to keep the Jewish Dietary Laws, Sabbaths, Feasts, therefore the were being saved by faith plus works of Torah or works of the Old Covenant Law. Simply, to become a Christian you first had to be a Jew and once you were a Christians you had to keep the Old Covenant. This is what put a fire in St. Paul! Jesus never indicated that one must be Jewish to be a Christian - No he fulfilled the act of circumcision with Holy Baptism, the food sacrifices of the Temple all culminated into the Holy Eucharist, and Confession to a priest no longer required an animal sacrifice, rather a humble and contrite heart.  Jesus kept the law and in doing it fulfilled it.

Thus, not only does St. Paul accuse the Judaizers of not even keeping the Law they force upon Gentile converts, but he provides further indictment in V. 12 where he says the Judaizers force the Law on the Gentiles “simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.” In essence they don’t want to be persecuted by non-messianic Jews, so forcing new converts to become Jews granted them toleration rather than persecution. This is cowardice and it bends the Gospel of Jesus into something other than the Gospel: The Gospel plus Judaism.

Thus in Galatians 6:14-15 we see St. Paul proclaim: “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” St. Paul can boast in nothing but the Cross of Jesus - the pharisee of pharisees does not boast in his judaism par excellence, his circumcision on the 8th day, his academic career under Gamaliel, nor  his zeal for Torah. No, he glories in Jesus’ Cross in which his entire world has been crucified - leaving nothing but the New Creation of Jesus Christ.

Paul then assures his readers with this Hope and challenges the claims of his opponents in V. 16, “and those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” The “rule” here is the principle of Christ alone, without circumcision,  which he just expounded upon - to those who follow the teaching of the Cross of Christ - Peace and Mercy will be upon them and upon the Israel of God. Now you might see the phrase “Israel of God” and think of Israel according to the flesh - but this is not what Paul is saying, rather he is saying “those who boast in Jesus Christ” are indeed the Israel of God, not those who have forsaken the Messiah by adding to the Gospel nor those who rejected the Messiah outright. St. Paul, is not worried about Jewish ethnicity or religion, rather, he claims those who are in Messiah Jesus are the true Israel.

Then in v.17 St. Paul lays down one further trump card against his opponents -those  who try to force Christianity plus Judaism - “From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.” Former Bishop of Gloucester notes, “He will not dally with these vexatious attacks upon himself and his authority any more. He dismisses them with an appeal which ought to be final. He points to the scars of wounds which he had received in his Master's service. The branding-irons of Christ, he says, have imprinted these upon me. They show that I, like the slaves of a heathen temple, am devoted and consecrated to His service. They are my credentials, and I shall produce no others. My assailants must leave me in peace.” (C.J. Ellicott)  While the Judaizers glory in their circumcision, St. Paul glories in his stigmata - his wounds he has received in the imitation of Christ.

In our Gospel today, we read, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” St. Paul is saying the same thing in Galatians. There are not multiple ways to God, there is only one way, through the cross of Jesus Christ. Therefore, don’t be anxious, nor persuaded by other philosophies, religions, world views, hold on to Jesus, and his grace and mercy will be upon you. Hold fast to Jesus, even in the face of persecution...he loves and died for you. He will see you through the darkest hour. As our blessed Lord commanded, “But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Amen.