Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lesson 19 St. Phillip

Philip was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. Later Christian traditions describe Philip as the apostle who proselytized in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia. He was martyred by crucifixion in the city of Hierapolis. In the Catholic Church, the feast day of Saint Philip, along with Saint James, has traditionally been observed on 1 May, but was moved to 11 May, the next free day, in 1955 due to the addition of Saint Joseph the Workman. In 1970, with the suppression of many feasts during the revision of the calendar, it was placed on 3 May. Members of the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrate it on November 14. Many churches in the Anglican Communion continue to celebrate it on 1 May.
Gnostic Christians appealed to the apostolic authority of Philip, ascribing a number of gnostic texts to him, most notably the Gospel of Philip from the Nag Hammadi library.
Philip the Apostle is not to be confused with Philip the Evangelist from the Book of Acts.
New Testament
The Gospel of John describes Philip's calling as a disciple of Jesus.[1] The narrative of Philip's call as a disciple describes him as being from the city of Bethsaida, and connects him to Andrew and Peter, who were from the same town.[2] It further connects him to Nathaniel (sometimes identified with Bartholomew), by describing how Philip introduced Nathaniel to Jesus.[3] The authors of the Synoptic Gospels also describe Philip as a disciple of Jesus.[4]
Of the four Gospels, Philip figures most prominently in the Gospel of John. His two most notable appearances in the narrative are as a link to the Greek-speaking Jewish community (Philip introduces members of this community to Jesus[5]); and during the Last Supper when he asked Jesus to see the Father, providing Jesus the opportunity to teach about the unity of the Father and the Son.[6]
Philip is always listed fifth among the apostles (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:14 and Acts 1:13).
Christian Tradition
Christian stories about Philip's life and ministry can be found in the extra-canonical writings of later Christians than in the New Testament. One of the most reliable fragments of knowledge about Philip comes from the head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria, Clement, who states that Philip was married, had children, and one of his daughters was also married.[7] Other legendary material about Philip can be misleading, as many hagiographers conflated Philip the Apostle with Philip the Evangelist. The most notable and influential example of this is the hagiography of Eusebius, in which Eusebius clearly assumes that both Philips are the same person.[8] As early as 1260, Jacobus de Voragine noted in his Golden Legend that the account of Philip's life given by Eusebius was not to be trusted.[9]
Later stories about Philip's life can be found in the anonymous Acts of Philip, probably written by a contemporary of Eusebius.[10] This non-canonical book recounts the preaching and miracles of Philip. Following the resurrection of Jesus, Philip was sent with his sister Mariamme and Bartolomew to preach in Greece, Phrygia, and Syria.[11] Included in the Acts of Philip is an appendix, entitled "Of the Journeyings of Philip the Apostle: From the Fifteenth Act Until the End, and Among Them the Martyrdom." This appendix gives an account of Philip's martyrdom in the city of Hierapolis.[12] According to this account, through a miraculous healing and his preaching Philip converted the wife of the proconsul of the city. This enraged the proconsul, and he had Philip, Bartholomew, and Mariamme all tortured. Philip and Bartholomew were then crucified upside down, and Philip preached from his cross. As a result of Philip's preaching the crowd released Bartholomew from his cross, but Philip insisted that they not release him, and Philip died on the cross.
In the Unity Church, Philip is the Apostle associated with the power of dominion, or power, as per Charles Fillmore's The Twelve Powers of Man.
The Greek Acts of Philip (Acta Philippi) is an unorthodox episodic apocryphal mid-to late fourth-century [1] narrative, originally in fifteen separate acta,[2] that gives an accounting of the miraculous acts performed by the Apostle Philip, with overtones of the genre of Romance.
Some of these episodes are identifiable as belonging to more closely related "cycles".[3] Two episodes recounting events of Philip's commission (3 and 8) have survived in both shorter and longer versions. There is no commission narrative in the surviving texts: Philip's authority rests on the prayers and benediction of Peter and John and is explicitly bolstered by a divine epiphany, in which the voice of Jesus urges "Hurry Philip! Behold, my angel is with you, do not neglect your task" and "Jesus is secretly walking with him".(ch. 3).
The Acts of Philip is most completely represented by a text[4] discovered in 1974 by François Bovon and Bertrand Bouvier in the library of Xenophontos monastery on Mount Athos in Greece.[5] The manuscript dates from the fourteenth century but its language identifies it as a copy of a fourth century original.[5] Many of the narratives in the manuscript were already known from other sources, but some were hitherto unknown.[6] The narrative claims that Jesus sent out a group of followers to spread his message. The followers were Philip, Bartholomew, and— a leading figure in the second half of the text— woman named Mariamne, who is identified in the text as Philip's sister, and who. Bovon previous claim that that Mariamne could be identical to Mary Magdalene.[5] However, following the Discovery Channel's popularized speculations in The Lost Tomb of Jesus, Bovon publicly distanced himself from its claims, withdrawing his published assertion (Bovon 2002) that the Mariamne of the Talpiot tomb discussed in The Lost Tomb of Jesus is the same person,[7] writing in an open letter to the Society of Biblical Literature:
the Mariamne of the Acts of Philip is part of the apostolic team with Philip and Bartholomew; she teaches and baptizes: Philip baptizes men, Mary baptizes women. In the beginning, her faith is stronger than Philip's faith. This portrayal of Mariamne fits very well with the portrayal of Mary of Magdala in the Manichean Psalms, the Gospel of Mary, and Pistis Sophia. My interest is not historical, but on the level of literary traditions. I have suggested this identification in 1984 already in an article of New Testament Studies.[8]
The text discovered by Bovon also described a community that practised vegetarianism and celibacy.[5] Women in the community wore men's clothes and held positions of authority comparable to men, serving as priests and deacons.[5] The community used a form of the eucharist where vegetables and water were consumed in place of bread and wine.[9] Among lesser miraculous accomplishments of the group were the conversion of a talking leopard and a talking goat,[5] as well as the slaying of a dragon.[10] "Speaking animals as helpers of the apostles are familiar figures in the apostolic Acts" (Czachesz 2002).
The manuscript discovered by Bovon has been published in a French translation. An English translation was planned "within a few years" (as of 2000).[5] Previous English translations, such as in M.R. James are based on collections of fragments known from before Bovon's discovery.
Like the brothers, Peter and Andrew, Philip was a native of Bethsaida on Lake Genesareth (John 1:44). He also was among those surrounding the Baptist when the latter first pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God. On the day after Peter's call, when about to set out for Galilee, Jesus met Philip and called him to the Apostolate with the words, "Follow me". Philip obeyed the call, and a little later brought Nathaniel as a new disciple (John 1:43-45). On the occasion of the selection and sending out of the twelve, Philip is included among the Apostles proper. His name stands in the fifth place in the three lists (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 6:13-16) after the two pairs of brothers, Peter and Andrew, James and John. The Fourth Gospel records three episodes concerning Philip which occurred during the epoch of the public teaching of the Saviour:
Before the miraculous feeding of the multitude, Christ turns towards Philip with the question: "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" to which the Apostle answers: "Two hundred penny-worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little" (vi, 5-7).
When some heathens in Jerusalem came to Philip and expressed their desire to see Jesus, Philip reported the fact to Andrew and then both brought the news to the Saviour (xii, 21-23).
When Philip, after Christ had spoken to His Apostles of knowing and seeing the Father, said to Him: "Lord, shew us the Father, and it is enough for us", he received the answer: "He that seeth me, seeth the Father also" (xiv, 8-9).
These three episodes furnish a consistent character-sketch of Philip as a naïve, somewhat shy, sober-minded man. No additional characteristics are given in the Gospels or the Acts, although he is mentioned in the latter work (i, 13) as belonging to the Apostolic College.
The second-century tradition concerning him is uncertain, inasmuch as a similar tradition is recorded concerning Philip the Deacon and Evangelist -- a phenomenon which must be the result of confusion caused by the existence of the two Philips. In his letter to St. Victor, written about 189-98, bishop Polycrates of Ephesus mentions among the "great lights", whom the Lord will seek on the "last day", "Philip, one of the Twelve Apostles, who is buried in Hieropolis with his two daughters, who grew old as virgins", and a third daughter, who "led a life in the Holy Ghost and rests in Ephesus." On the other hand, according to the Dialogue of Caius, directed against a Montanist named Proclus, the latter declared that "there were four prophetesses, the daughters of Philip, at Hieropolis in Asia where their and their father's grave is still situated." The Acts (xxi, 8-9) does indeed mention four prophetesses, the daughters of the deacon and "Evangelist" Philip, as then living in Caesarea with their father, and Eusebius who gives the above-mentioned excerpts (Hist. Eccl., III, xxxii), refers Proclus' statement to these latter. The statement of Bishop Polycrates carries in itself more authority, but it is extraordinary that three virgin daughters of the Apostle Philip (two buried in Hieropolis) should be mentioned, and that the deacon Philip should also have four daughters, said to have been buried in Hieropolis. Here also perhaps we must suppose a confusion of the two Philips to have taken place, although it is difficult to decide which of the two, the Apostle or the deacon, was buried in Hieropolis. Many modern historians believe that it was the deacon; it is, however, possible that the Apostle was buried there and that the deacon also lived and worked there and was there buried with three of his daughters and that the latter were afterwards erroneously regarded as the children of the Apostle. The apocryphal "Acts of Philip," which are, however purely legendary and a tissue of fables, also refer Philip's death to Hieropolis. The remains of the Philip who was interred in Hieropolis were later translated (as those of the Apostle) to Constantinople and thence to the church of the Dodici Apostoli in Rome. The feast of the Apostle is celebrated in the Roman Church on 1 May (together with that of James the Younger), and in the Greek Church on 14 November. [Editor's Note: The feast is now celebrated on 3 May in the Roman Church.]

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Lesson 18 St. Stephen

One of the first deacons and the first Christian martyr; feast on 26 December. In the Acts of the Apostles the name of St. Stephen occurs for the first time on the occasion of the appointment of the first deacons (Acts 6:5). Dissatisfaction concerning the distribution of alms from the community's fund having arisen in the Church, seven men were selected and specially ordained by the Apostles to take care of the temporal relief of the poorer members. Of these seven, Stephen, is the first mentioned and the best known.
Stephen's life previous to this appointment remains for us almost entirely in the dark. His name is Greek and suggests he was a Hellenist, i.e., one of those Jews who had been born in some foreign land and whose native tongue was Greek; however, according to a fifth century tradition, the name Stephanos was only a Greek equivalent for the Aramaic Kelil (Syr. kelila, crown), which may be the protomartyr's original name and was inscribed on a slab found in his tomb. It seems that Stephen was not a proselyte, for the fact that Nicolas is the only one of the seven designated as such makes it almost certain that the others were Jews by birth. That Stephen was a pupil of Gamaliel is sometimes inferred from his able defence before the Sanhedrin; but this has not been proved. Neither do we know when and in what circumstances he became a Christian; it is doubtful whether the statement of St. Epiphanius (Haer., xx, 4) numbering Stephen among the seventy disciples is deserving of any credence. His ministry as deacon appears to have been mostly among the Hellenist converts with whom the Apostles were at first less familiar; and the fact that the opposition he met with sprang up in the synagogues of the "Libertines" (probably the children of Jews taken captive to Rome by Pompey in 63 B. C. and freed hence the name Libertini), and "of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia" shows that he usually preached among the Hellenist Jews. That he was pre eminently fitted for that work, his abilities and character, which the author of the Acts dwells upon so fervently, are the best indication. The Church had, by selecting him for a deacon, publicly acknowledged him as a man "of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom" (Acts 6:3). He was "a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost" (vi, 5), "full of grace and fortitude" (vi, 8); his uncommon oratorical powers and unimpeachable logic no one was able to resist, so much so that to his arguments replete with the Divine energy of the Scriptural authorities God added the weight of "great wonders and signs" (vi, 8). Great as was the efficacy of "the wisdom and the spirit that spoke" (vi, 10), still it could not bend the minds of the unwilling; to these the forceful preacher was fatally soon to become an enemy.
The conflict broke out when the cavillers of the synagogues "of the Libertines, and of the Cyreneans, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia", who had challenged Stephen to a dispute, came out completely discomfited (vi, 9 10); wounded pride so inflamed their hatred that they suborned false witnesses to testify that "they had heard him speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God" (vi, 11).
No charge could be more apt to rouse the mob; the anger of the ancients and the scribes had been already kindled from the first reports of the preaching of the Apostles. Stephen was arrested, not without some violence it seems (the Greek word synerpasan implies so much), and dragged before the Sanhedrin, where he was accused of saying that "Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place [the temple], and shall change the traditions which Moses delivered unto us" (vi, 12 14). No doubt Stephen had by his language given some grounds for the accusation; his accusers apparently twisted into the offensive utterance attributed to him a declaration that "the most High dwelleth not in houses made by hands" (vii, 48), some mention of Jesus foretelling the destruction of the Temple and some inveighing against the burthensome traditions fencing about the Law, or rather the asseveration so often repeated by the Apostles that "there is no salvation in any other" (cf. iv, 12) the Law not excluded but Jesus. However this may be, the accusation left him unperturbed and "all that sat in the council...saw his face as if it had been the face of an angel" (vi, 15).
Stephen's answer (Acts 7) was a long recital of the mercies of God towards Israel during its long history and of the ungratefulness by which, throughout, Israel repaid these mercies. This discourse contained many things unpleasant to Jewish ears; but the concluding indictment for having betrayed and murdered the Just One whose coming the Prophets had foretold, provoked the rage of an audience made up not of judges, but of foes. When Stephen "looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God", and said: "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (vii, 55), they ran violently upon him (vii, 56) and cast him out of the city to stone him to death. Stephen's stoning does not appear in the narrative of the Acts as a deed of mob violence; it must have been looked upon by those who took part in it as the carrying out of the law. According to law (Leviticus 24:14), or at least its usual interpretation, Stephen had been taken out of the city; custom required that the person to be stoned be placed on an elevation from whence with his hands bound he was to be thrown down. It was most likely while these preparations were going on that, "falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (vii, 59). Meanwhile the witnesses, whose hands must be first on the person condemned by their testimony (Deuteronomy 17:7), were laying down their garments at the feet of Saul, that they might be more ready for the task devolved upon them (vii, 57). The praying martyr was thrown down; and while the witnesses were thrusting upon him "a stone as much as two men could carry", he was heard to utter this supreme prayer: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (vii, 58). Little did all the people present, casting stones upon him, realize that the blood they shed was the first seed of a harvest that was to cover the world.
The bodies of men stoned to death were to be buried in a place appointed by the Sanhedrin. Whether in this instance the Sanhedrin insisted on its right cannot be affirmed; at any rate, "devout men" -- whether Christians or Jews, we are not told -- "took order for Stephen's funeral, and made great mourning over him" (vii, 2). For centuries the location of St. Stephen's tomb was lost sight of, until (415) a certain priest named Lucian learned by revelation that the sacred body was in Caphar Gamala, some distance to the north of Jerusalem. The relics were then exhumed and carried first to the church of Mount Sion, then, in 460, to the basilica erected by Eudocia outside the Damascus Gate, on the spot where, according to tradition, the stoning had taken place (the opinion that the scene of St. Stephen's martyrdom was east of Jerusalem, near the Gate called since St. Stephen's Gate, is unheard of until the twelfth century). The site of the Eudocian basilica was identified some twenty years ago, and a new edifice has been erected on the old foundations by the Dominican Fathers.
The only first hand source of information on the life and death of St. Stephen is the Acts of the Apostles (6:1-8:2).
Also known as
Stephen the Deacon
26 December
First Christian Martyr. Deacon. Preacher. All we know of him is related in the Acts of the Apostles. While preaching the Gospel in the streets, angry Jews who believed his message to be blasphemy dragged him outside the city, and stoned him to death. In the crowd, on the side of the mob, was a man who would later be known as Saint Paul.
stoned to death c.33
Name Meaning
Acoma Indian Pueblo; casket makers; Cetona, Italy; coffin makers; deacons; headaches; horses; Kessel, Germany; masons; diocese of Owensboro Kentucky; Passau, Germany; Prato, Italy; stone masons
deacon carrying a pile of rocks; deacon with rocks gathered in his vestments; deacon with rocks on his head; deacon with rocks or a book at hand; stones; palm of martyrdom
Gallery of images of Saint Stephen [4 images, 69 kb]
Commercial Links related to Saint Stephen
Additional Information
Goffine's Devout InstructionsGolden Legend, by Jacobus de VoragineSaint Stephen's Church of Schenectady, NYCatholic OnlineDomestic Church,Lives of the Saints, by Father Alban ButlerCatholic EncyclopediaActs 6:1-15; 7:51-60
español français deutsch italiano português
At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit.... Now Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke. Then they instigated some men to say, "We have heard him speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God." They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes, accosted him, seized him, and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They presented false witnesses who testified, "This man never stops saying things against (this) holy place and the law. For we have heard him claim that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us." All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel. Stephen preaches to the Sanhedrin, concluding: "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it." When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them"; and when he said this, he fell asleep. - Acts 6:1-15, 7:51-60
Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier. Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin's womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven. Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvelous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches. And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth ot heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey's end. My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together. from a sermon by Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe
From early times this saint was venerated as patron of horses. A poem of the tenth century pictures him as the owner of a horse and dramatically relates how Christ Himself miraculously cured the animal for His beloved Disciple. Though there is no historical basis for this association with horses in the life of Saint Stephen, various explanations have been attempted. Some are founded on ancient Germanic ritual celebrations of horse sacrifices at Yuletide. Others use the fact that in medieval times "Twelfth Night" (Christmas to Epiphany) was a time of rest for domestic animals, and horses, as the most useful servants of man, were accorded at the beginning of this fortnight something like a feast day of their own. It was a general practice among the farmers in Europe to decorate their horses on Stephen's Day, and bring them to the house of God to be blessed by the priest and afterward ridden three times around the church, a custom still observed in many rural sections. Later in the day the whole family takes a gay ride in a wagon or sleigh (Saint Stephen's ride). In Sweden, the holy deacon was changed by early legend into the figure of a native saint, a stable boy who is said to have been killed by the pagans in Helsingland. His name -- Staffan -- reveals the original saint. The "Staffan Riders" parade through the towns of Sweden on December 26, singing their ancient carols in honor of the "Saint of Horses." Horses' food, mostly hay and oats, is blessed on Stephen's Day. Inspired by pre-Christmas fertility rites people thrown kernels of these blessed oats at one another and at their domestic animals. In sections of Poland they even toss oats at the priest after Mass. Popular legends say this custom is an imitation of stoning, performed in honor of the saint's martyrdom. The ancient fertility rite, however, can still be clearly recognized in the Polish custom of boys and girls throwing walnuts at each other on Saint Stephen's Day. In the past centuries water and salt were blessed on this day and kept by farmers to be fed to their horses in case of sickness. Women also baked special breads in the form of horseshoes (Saint Stephen's horns: podkovy) which were eaten on December 26. In some parts of the British Isles, Saint Stephen's Day is the occasion for boys (the Wren Boys) to go from house to house, one of them carrying a dead wren on a branch decorated with all kinds of gay, streaming ribbons. Stopping in front of each door they sing a song and receive little gifts in return. The wren is "stoned" to death in memory of Saint Stephen's martyrdom. Actually, though, this represents a relic of the ancient Druidic sacrifice of wrens at the time of the winter solstice."