Sunday, December 30, 2012
Our Lord's Extended Family
Christmas is a time for visiting extended family. Today in the Byzantine Rite we look at some of Our Lord's extended family. Today, the Sunday within the Post-feast of the Nativity, is the Feast of St. Joseph the Betrothed, St. James the Brother of the Lord, and St. David the Royal Prophet.
Icon of the Flight into Egypt, today's Gospel for the Feast of Sts. Joseph, David, & James. This icon seems to have St. James (or at least a St. James) behind the donkey.
Icon of St. James the Less, Brother of the Lord and First Bishop of Jerusalem. The Church's original ceremony for the Holy Eucharist was composed by him, the Divine Liturgy of St. James. It is still used in the Antiochean Rites. We know that he is for a fact Our Lord's cousin from a couple of different passages. Most notably, at the foot of the Cross, St. John, a complete non-relative (whose family is identified in the Gospels), gets custody of the Mother of God. By Jewish law, when a woman's husband died, she went into the custody of her children. If she had no children, she was destitute. The fact that Christ gave His mother to St. John tells us that a)St. Joseph was dead, so Our Lord already had already inherited custody of her; b)He had neither siblings nor step-siblings (who were identical to siblings in law), since they would have automatically inherited her from Him upon His death on the cross; and c)He didn't want her to be destitute, which is what would have happened otherwise. That also tells us that St. Joseph didn't have a previous marriage as those children would have been Our Lord's step children. So with Our Lord having neither siblings nor step-siblings as the conversation at the foot of the cross gives away, St. James could only be one of the other meanings of the word "brother": either a male cousin or a "bro". As he wasn't among the 3 favored apostles-that was the other St. James, the older brother of St. John-he couldn't have been "bro". Therefore St. James was a cousin-and probably a closer cousin than St. John the Forerunner.