Vigil of the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude 2021

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My brethren in Christ Jesus, blessings, and joy as we celebrate today the Vigil of the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude. The two men are listed among the Twelve Disciples, but for the most part the Gospels are silent as to their contributions to the early faith. Much of what we know comes from oral traditions later inscribed and dating back to the First Century A.D. By all the accounts, the two men were courageous proponents of the Christian faith who travelled the Greco-Roman world as missionaries for the Risen Christ. Different stories have them, either by themselves or together, preaching the faith as far afield as the Middle East, Turkey, Ethiopia, and even Roman Britannia. They came together to bring the Gospel to the Armenians, and are credited as the patrons of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It is in particular for this missionary work that the two men are celebrated together on the same feast day. A deep friendship rests at the core of these hagiographic stories, and we can see in their example how God can bring people together from their shared affinity and purpose to walk the way of Our Lord as brothers or sisters in the faith. If the Christian life is an all-encompassing pilgrimage from sin to salvation, and from the Old Adam to the Resurrected Christ, then Saints Simon and Jude forever remind us that the way of the pilgrim need not always be solitary. The path will be hard, for the world hates us, and will persecute us as it did Our Lord; but the path need not be lonely. We can look down and see the footsteps of the faithful who have gone before us, and then we can look to our side and see the friend who will stay with us no matter the consequence. This is the hope for which we should pray when we consider the lives and the legacies of Saints Simon and Jude.

The tradition is that St. Jude was the son of Mary of Clopas, the sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary who was among the women who stayed with Jesus during His Crucifixion. Hegesippus, a Second Century Christian apologist, identifies her husband, Clopas, as the brother of St. Joseph. As such Jude is Our Lord’s cousin. Another tradition identifies Jude as the bridegroom in the Wedding at Cana. This would explain the prominent role that the Blessed Virgin Mary has in the account, as her authority in telling the staff to follow her Son’s commands makes sense if she is the sister of the bridegroom’s mother. Jude is depicted in icons as carrying an axe which was the instrument of his martyrdom. He is the patron saint of lost causes. The story is that over the centuries most Christians would not invoke his name in prayer for fear of sounding like they are venerating the infamous Judas Iscariot. Therefore, being largely ignored by the faithful, Jude was so very eager to be of service to whomever might call upon his name that he would take on the direst prayer requests – hence, the identification with “lost causes.”

There remains much dispute as to whether Simon the Zealot had been one of the Jews known as Zealots in the First Century, or whether the title is simply a reference to his extreme religious devotion. Either way, he seems to have had the strong personality and bearing of a man willing to undertake any hardship for his vocation. One tradition has him going to Roman Britannia as a Christian missionary and then participating in an uprising against Roman rule. Another tradition has him participating in the First Jewish-Roman War that would result in the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D. There are several differing accounts of his martyrdom, but the fact he is featured in his icons holding a saw gives added credence to the story that, when captured by the Romans, he was sawed in half while still alive. According to Eusebius, Simon had become by that time the second Bishop of Jerusalem. No doubt, he was no longer the militant youth hinted at in these earlier tales, and yet his devotion remained as steadfast as when he walked all those mile alongside his friend, Jude. Whether young and fiery or old and wise, the way of the martyr ends as a total sacrifice of oneself to the loving embrace of Our Lord. All is given in faith that all will be received.

And yet this sacrifice is not made selfishly. The true Christian martyr gives himself over to God for the good of his brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. In emulation of Our Lord, he gives not for himself but for everyone else too weakened by sin to be able to make the same sacrifice. There are no quotes in the Bible attributed to St. Simon and only one attributed to St. Jude. “Master,” St. Jude asks Christ Jesus, “what has happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Notice that though Jude is privileged to have such a close relationship with Christ Jesus, he is focusing on what relationship everyone else may be able to have with Him. He is thinking outside of himself and his own spiritual welfare and is instead concerned with the welfare of all of humanity. This is the true heart of the martyr. His sacrifice is an offering of love because it is in every way selfless and concerned for the betterment of others. Let us be blessed in our lives by their example of loving fidelity. Let us learn to find our true selves by putting our love ahead of ourselves. Let us be in Christ Jesus no matter the cost to us so that we may be found in Him.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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