Here we have the Apostle Saint James, also known as James the Greater, and “James the Just”. He is also referred to as one of the “Sons of Thunder”, a title he shared with his brother, Apostle Saint John, which is said to have come from their lightning speed temper. This temper is noted to have been sparked by their reaction and defense against the indignities towards Christ by the Samaritans.
His story is filled with questions, controversy, and differing points of view that scholars have trouble agreeing upon. He was noted to be an Apostle of Christ and trusted member of Jesus’s inner circle. Yet some say he was not even part of the original 12 Apostles, and didn’t adhere to Jesus’s ideologies or doctrines until much later, long after Jesus was said to have died. In fact, it was the witnessing of the Resurrection of Christ that sparked the Apostle Saint James’s conversion. In addition to witnessing two other significant events, this transfiguration is what brought James into the adherence of Christian teachings.
Much about the Apostle Saint James has been debated, including talking points of the famed Letter of James, also referred to as the Epistle of St. James the Apostle. By modern scholars, it is agreed that he never penned such a letter, and that it was written with moral agenda by others during the post apocalyptic period of the first century, long after James and his brother John died. The Letter of James is considered pseudepigraphical, with the purpose of gaining apostolic authority for its needed message, and is disregarded as having anything to do with the Apostle Saint James at all.
Even James’s true identity remains debated.
So who was he…really? And what part of the stories circulating about his life were true?
One thing scholars can agree on however, is that he was murdered for his beliefs in 44 AD. This gave him Martyrdom status.
The Apostle Saint James is considered a Patron Saint of Pilgrims and Spain. His remains are buried in Santiago de Compostela, where his Shrine attracts Pilgrims from all over the world. He is venerated on Feast Day, July 25th.
It is said that when he appears to those seeking answers about their direction in life, or the validity of their faith, he greets people often with observation first. He watches them, listens to their inner dialogue, and only offers stern but truthful guidance when asked. He resonates with those who are venturing into their own Spiritual Pilgrimage, who question the authority, validity, or personal relatability with Christian Spiritual teachings. He has much to share about the path ahead, and will often appear to help others navigate the journey.
Despite the intense passion and foretold temper of the Apostle Saint James, he exercises pause when working with people. He can be seen in a hunter green garment that some describe as a cape, while others describe as a vestment, robe, or even Kings regal attire. It is not often he is depicted wearing red, even though this is a common coloration in Christian art.
Green is considered a color of hope, perseverance, and continued listening.
Red is connected to the symbolism of the Passion of the Christ, to represent his blood spilled in the name of Martyrdom.
Is it possible James would have us lean away from the investment of energy put into the ideologies of Martyrdom, and have us focus more on aspects of hope?
It is important to James that people feel equal with him, and him with them. Through direct spiritual interaction with him, he is often depicted sitting on a throne, with his Pilgrims staff in hand. His throne is no more higher or lower than the person he faces. This makes sense considering this was what he wished to experience in the stories told of his interactions with Jesus. James wanted he and his brother John to be placed on each side of Jesus, to be regarded as equals, in a future glory. It is told that Jesus rebuked this. Some say Jesus only mentioned he did not have the power to grant his request. Others say Jesus was offended by this, and saw James and John as unworthy and lesser than equal, communicating they were undeserving of that position. This rejection spiraled into a conflict of ideologies regarding political power, and the spiritual ethics of Jesus’s teachings.
James reminds us that our inherent power lies within each of us, that we are equal unto each other, that no one is greater or lesser than another. This is our birthright and inherent Divinity. Knowing our value and worth is essential to healthy self awareness. It is ironic, considering he was given the name, the Apostle Saint James the Greater. This was only to differentiate him from the Apostle Saint James the Lesser however, because one was taller than the other.
James questioned the role of leaders, what defined great leadership, and challenged the ethics of spiritual ideologies that pushed people to submit to fear, self deprecation, or the need to shrink down in order to earn favor into Heaven. He reminds us that questioning what we’re taught, or the authority by which the teachings are being disseminated, is healthy and necessary to understanding ones own inner truth.
James teaches us that spiritual adherence and fellowship should come through ones own personal free will and convictions, rather than peer pressure, public influence, or the adoption of convergence by second hand authority.
It is important we stand in our truth without wavering, even if that means we stand alone. Sometimes we must make our own way in the world, in order to be at one with ourselves and Spirit. It is only by the way of looking inward that we understand the mysteries we are trying to solve.