Tuesday, May 03, 2022

St Philip and St James by Peter Paul Rubens

Today is the modern feast of the Apostles of Ss Philip and James the Lesser. These two images of them are from a series of all 12 Apostles painted by Peter Paul Rubens in the 17th century, which is now in the Prado museum in Madrid, Spain. They were painted between 1610 and 1612, and conform well to the Baroque style of liturgical art. 

St James the Less
St Philip
The two Apostles are celebrated together because their relics were transported to Rome and brought to the same Church, now dedicated to all 12 Apostles. 
James, the son of Alphaeus and “brother of Lord” is called “the Less” to distinguish him from the brother of St John and son of Zebedee; he who ruled the Church at Jerusalem, wrote one of the Catholic Epistles; he was well known for his austere life, and converted many Jews to the Faith. The other James, known as “the Greater”, was crowned with martyrdom in the year 62.
Philip was born at Bethsaida and was originally as a disciple of John the Baptist, after whose death he followed Christ. 
Philip and James the Less are two Apostles about whom little is known and not much is spoken. However, on reflecting on the day, an account of an exchange between Philip and Our Lord caught my interest. In John 14, 6-9 (Knox translation) we read: 
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way; I am truth and life; nobody can come to the Father, except through me. If you had learned to recognize me, you would have learned to recognize my Father too. From now onwards you are to recognize him; you have seen him.’ At this, Philip said to him, ‘Lord, let us see the Father; that is all we ask.’ ‘What, Philip,’ Jesus said to him, ‘here am I, who have been all this while in your company; hast thou not learned to recognize me yet? Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father; what dost thou mean by saying, Let us see the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you are not my own words; and the Father, who dwells continually in me, achieves in me his own acts of power. If you cannot trust my word, when I tell you that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.’
This passage the source of one of the main arguments for the use of images in churches, which is mandated by the Seventh Ecumenical Council as a necessary means by which we come to know, recognize and trust those whom we cannot see in recognizable form otherwise: Christ, the Saints, and the angels, and through Christ, the Father. One justification for this argument was that Our Lord was the image of the Father, and it was by recognizing Our Lord, whom they could see as a result of the incarnation, that the Apostles could also recognize the Father, whom they could not see.

St Paul tells us in Colossians that Christ is “the true likeness of the God we cannot see”, but here we have it from Our Lord’s own lips.

Here is St James the Greater from the same set of twelve painted by Rubens.

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