St. James the “Greater”

St. James the Greater was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, a son of Zebedee. (James “the Lesser” was another apostle.) James the Greater and his older brother John were called by Jesus while fixing their nets at the Sea of Galilee. They received from Christ the name “Boanerges,” meaning “sons of thunder,” for their impulsiveness. The gospel relates that James was present for the miracle of Jairus’ daughter, the Lord’s Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, and later with Jesus during His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Acts of the Apostles tells us that the Apostles dispersed to different regions to take the Good News to the people of God. St. James the Greater went to Spain to evangelize. He went first to Galicia, where he established a Christian community and later to the Roman city of Cesar Augustus, today known as Zaragoza.

Apparition of Mary to St. James

It is believed that on January 2nd, in the year 40 A.D., St. James and his disciples where resting on the shore side of the Egro river and started to hear sweet voices singing. They saw the sky fill up with light and many angels coming near them. The angels where carrying a throne on which the Queen of Heaven and earth was sitting. This was extraordinary, for Mary was living at that time in Jerusalem, making her appearance to them in Spain a bilocation. The Blessed Virgin told St. James to build a sanctuary where God would be honored and glorified, and gave him a pillar with her image to be placed in the sanctuary.

The Blessed Virgin also told St. James that the sanctuary would remain until the end of times and that she would bless all the prayers offered devoutly in this place. At the end of the apparition, Our Lady said to St. James that when the sanctuary was finished, he should return to Palestine where he would die.

St. James fulfilled the desires of the Blessed Virgin Mary and constructed the first Christian Church in the entire world. St. James returned to Palestine, where he was decapitated by order of Herod on the 25th of March during a persecution of the Church in Jerusalem. According to tradition, the accuser of St. James, who lead him to judgment, was so moved by St. James’ confession before death that he converted and was willingly beheaded with the Apostle. His disciples recovered his body and translated it to Galicia without anyone’s knowledge in a miraculous boat guided by God.

James means Jacob

In the Old Testament Jacob constructed an altar for God naming it Bethel, which means “House of God” (Gen. 35:7). The name “James” is the translation of Iakobos, the Graecised form of the name “Jacob.” Jacob constructed the “House of God,” and St. James parallels his namesake with the construction of the first “House of God” of the New Covenant.

Light of the World, Salt of the Earth

St. James’s tomb was forgotten for over 800 years. Under the rule of Alfonso II (789-842), a hermit named Pelagio received a vision revealing the tomb of St. James. On July 25th, 812, the spot where the tomb was revealed to be was filled with a bright light. Because of this, it has since been known as Compostela, which means “Field of Light.” The bishop of Iria Flavia, Theodomir, after investigating, declared that these were truly the remains of St. James in the tomb. In 1884 Pope Leon XIII, in a Papal Bull, declared that the remains of St. James were at Compostela.

St. James, pray for us, that we would become close friends of Christ, and courageous witnesses for Him.

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