St Philip the Apostle and St James the Less,
Painted by Parri di Spinello (1387-1453),
Fesco at Basilica of San Domenico, Arezzo, Tuscany,
Painted between 1395-1400
© Alamy stock photo
Feast of Saints Phillip and James
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 Fresco
Our late 14th-century fresco by Parri di Spinello, located in Arezzo, depicts the lives of Saint Philip and Saint James the Less, whom we celebrate today. The central scene shows James on the left and Philip on the right. The smaller scenes on the left tell the story and martyrdom of James, while those on the right depict episodes from the life of Philip--we see him driving off a dragon and being crucified by pagans.
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 (The Twelve Holy Apostles). It is one of my favourite churches 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 regularly to say a little prayer.
It is thanks to these to two apostles and the other disciples that we have received our faith. They were simple men, weak at times, but it is exactly those people whom Jesus chose to help spread the Good News throughout the whole world. Just as James and Philip had a close relationship with Jesus, we are called to the same closeness and friendship with him, for he wants to include us too in his circle of love.
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