THE FEAST OF ST. SIMON & ST. JUDE, APOSTLES
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.”