Basilica dei Santi XII Apostoli,
Church finished in 1714,
Main architect Carlo Fontana (1638-1714),
© Christian Art

Basilica dei Santi XII Apostoli,
Church finished in 1714,
Main architect Carlo Fontana (1638-1714),
© Christian Art

Gospel of 3 May 2021

Feast of St Phillip and St James

John 14:6-14

Jesus said to Thomas:

'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you know me, you know my Father too. From this moment you know him and have seen him.' Philip said, 'Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.'  'Have I been with you all this time, Philip,' said Jesus to him 'and you still do not know me?

'To have seen me is to have seen the Father, so how can you say, "Let us see the Father"? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself: it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work. You must believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason. I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask for in my name I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it.'

Reflection on the Basilica Interior

Today we celebrate the Feast of St Philip (whom Jesus is addressing in today's Gospel reading) and St James (the Less), the apostles. During the sixth century, the bodies of both saints were transferred from Constantinople to Rome by Pope Pelagius I (died in 561).  They were laid to rest in the Basilica dei Santi XII Apostoli (Holy Apostles), close to Piazza Venezia here in Rome. Since the 6th century the relics of the two apostles were kept together in the first version of the church at the same location it is now. Since then also, the Church instituted a single feast day for both apostles. These relics are one of the richest treasures in the Holy City and I go there about once a month to say a little prayer. 

I share with you a photo of the interior of the church, one of the minor basilicas in Rome. In the middle of the photograph just below the altar, you see some steps. One can walk down those steps to the tombs of Saint Philip and Saint James. Also note the use of perspective in the frescoes above the sanctuary. In 1709 Giovanni Odazzi painted the fall of Lucifer and his angels from the heavens. The figures seem to be falling right into our space, floating over the architectural vaults. 

Philip and James served Christ in very different and unique ways. As per the reading today, they put into practise what Christ preached: 'whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself and he will perform even greater works'.

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