Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Feast of St Christopher

Ss Christopher, Roch and Sebastian, by Lorenzo Lotto, 1535; from the Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto. 
Today is the feast of the martyr St Christopher, who was traditionally kept as a commemoration on the feast of the Apostle St James the Greater. One of the legends about him is that his persecutors attempted to kill him in the same manner that would later befall St Sebastian, by tying him to a stake and shooting him full of arrows. In Christopher’s case, the arrows simply stopped moving when they got close to him and hung in the air around him. Arrows were taken as a symbol of the plague, and so he came to be honored as one of the many Saints whose intercession was invoked against it. The Venetian painter Lotto therefore shows him here in the company of two such other Saints.

The Sarum Missal contains a series of votive Masses for Saints invoked for protection against plagues and diseases: Sebastian, Erasmus, Genevieve, Roch, Christopher, Anthony the Abbot, and the Archangel Raphael. The Mass for St Christopher in this series contains this beautiful collect, which also refers to the well-known legend that he once bore the infant Jesus on his shoulders across a river.

“Grant, we ask, almighty and merciful God, that we who keep the memory of Thy blessed martyr Christopher, by his pious merits and intercession may be delivered on earth from perpetual death, sudden plague, famine, fear, poverty, and from all the snares of our enemies; through Thee, Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, and King of glory, whom the same Christopher merited to bear upon his shoulders. Who livest etc.” (Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens et misericors Deus, ut qui beati Christophori martyris tui memoriam agimus, ejus piis meritis et intercessionibus a morte perpetua, subitanea peste, fame, timore, paupertate, et ab omnibus insidiis inimicorum liberemur in terris; per te Jesu Christe, salvator mundi, rex gloriae, quem idem Christophorus meruit in suis humeris portare. Qui vivis etc.)

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: