Christian: Examine Irony For St. James, The First Martyr

This portrait of St. James, painted by Rembrandt, sold at a 2007 auction for $25.8 millionSUNDAY, JULY 25: Irony streaks the story of the disciple remembered today, as Western Christians mark a day for St. James, son of Zebedee. James and his brother, John, were followers of Jesus, but the most notable part of James’ came toward the end. Before his beheading—and his becoming the first disciple to be martyred—James was accused of violating the law. Yet it was James’ accuser who, upon hearing James’ confession, became a Christian himself! (Wikipedia has details.) According to Christian tradition, James was taken to the temple to publicly renounce his faith in Christ—but upon his arrival, James only declared his belief in Jesus. On that day in 44 CE, both St. James and his accuser were beheaded together.

St. James’ life had also been an impressive one. He was present at the Transfiguration and at the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus’ crucifixion. (This church site has a full biography of St. James.) After his death, accounts declared that this saint was still performing deeds. A Christian army claimed that St. James miraculously appeared at the battle of Clavijo in 844, and because his remains lie at the Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Spanish armies have traditionally cried out “Santiago y cierra”—“St. James and the strike for Spain”—for centuries. The cross of St. James is also known as the Spanish cross and reflects the deep roots that connect St. James and his country. A pilgrimage to Santiago known as “the Way of Saint James” has been a popular destination since the Middle Ages.

In 1661, Rembrandt painted five portraits of apostles. His portrait of St. James was sold at an auction in 2007 for $25.8 million.

(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)

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