Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.
Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Read: Psalm 1, Acts 15:12-22a, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, and Luke 4:14-21
There were two men named James who were among Jesus’ disciples; the older one, brother to John and son of Zebedee was known as “James the Great”, while the younger one was known variously by James “the Less”, “of Jerusalem”, “the Righteous”, “son of Alphaeus”, and “the brother of the Lord”.
This last name comes from his relation to Jesus. Some, who believe that the Mary never had children other than Jesus, say that James was Jesus’ cousin – which in those days was about the same as being a brother, and since neither Aramaic (Jesus’ native tongue) nor Hebrew had a word for cousin, the word brother would have been used. Others, who believe that Mary did have children after Jesus, point to the listing of James, Joses, Jude, and Simon (Mt. 13:55) as Jesus’ brothers, and that therefore James was Jesus’ half-brother.
James is said to have been a Nazarite – one who does not shave or cut hair, or drink wine or eat grapes. James apparently took this further, becoming one who never drank strong drink, never ate meat, and never shaved, anointed himself with oil, or even bathed! He prayed so often in the temple that his knees are said to have become as tough and hard as camels’ knees.
After Jesus’ ascension, James began to grow in importance. He eventually became the first bishop of Jerusalem. St. Paul writes about meeting with him and St. Peter at the first Jerusalem Council, which occurred about 50ce. Later on he authored the Epistle, known as “the Proverbs of the New Testament”. He also wrote a liturgy for Christian worship; it is the oldest liturgy we have.
James was martyred in about 60ce, following the death of the Roman governor Festus (of Acts 25 fame), but before his successor had taken office. He was accused by the High Priest and Sanhedrin “of breaking the law” and was thrown off the temple and stoned. As the rocks were falling on him, he knelt and prayed that God would forgive them. Someone shouted, “Cease, what are you doing? The just man is praying for us.” But someone else, a man who dyed cloth, took his club and hurled it at James’ head, killing him. The historian and priest, St. Jerome, later wrote that the Jews considered the act to be little more than judicial murder, and it angered many people.
St. James gave his life to holiness and leadership. When being stoned he prayed for his attackers, begging God to forgive them. We can learn much from James’ example. You may find the following prayer helpful:
Grant, O God, that, following the example of your servant James the Just, brother of our Lord, your Church may give itself continually to prayer and to the reconciliation of all who are at variance and enmity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for and ever. Amen.