Friday, May 1, 2009

Saint Philip and Saint James

The Episcopal calendar of saints marks today as the commemoration of two saints: Philip and James. We've talked before about the multiple saints named James (here and here) -- this one seems to be James the Lesser, though there isn't complete agreement on that. Philip appears a bit more often in the New Testament, and apparently he is always the fifth in the lists of the twelve apostles.

Today's hymn by
Cecil Frances Alexander uses familiar themes from John 14. Philip is one of the disciples asking questions of Jesus in this chapter.

Our chosen Way, and Truth of God
That Jesus came from heav'n to show,
One Life, that Christ's redeeming blood
Has won, for all the saints below.

The lore, from Philip once concealed,
To us is fully known in Christ,
Our great Creator is revealed
And all our longing is sufficed.

And still unwavering faith holds sure
The words that James wrote boldly down;
Each day we labor and endure,
And finally win the heav'nly crown,

O Way divine, through gloom and strife,
Bring us our Maker's face to see,
O heav'nly Truth, O precious Life,
At last, at last to rest in thee.

Cecil Frances Alexander, 1875; alt.
Edward Hodges, 1841

Composer Edward Hodges was born in England, but crossed the ocean to accept church musician jobs first in Toronto then in New York City, where he was the organist at Trinity Church in lower Manhattan. He is best known for his hymn tune arrangement of the main theme from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, known to us as HYMN TO JOY. I also mentioned him (though not by name) last week when talking about his son, John Sebastian Bach Hodges, the composer of EUCHARISTIC HYMN.


Leland Bryant Ross said...

I think I have more difficulty with the multiplicity (or at least duplicity ;-) ) of Philips than with the Jameses'. When I think of "Philip" in a NT context I generally think of the Candace's treasurer, and assume that this involves the Disciple/Apostle Philip from the Gospels. But when I look closer I see that both by church tradition and by textual parsing it is more likely that the Philip some of whose fanciful or historical exploits are recounted in the Acts of the Apostles was actually the Deacon Philip, aka Philip the Evangelist. This hymn of Mrs. Alexander's, of course, deals with the Disciple who was one of the Twelve, not the disciple who was one of the Seven. I'd like to see some hymnody on the latter. (I know there's one such hymn in Lift Every Voice and Sing II, the Black Episcopal hymnal, which I just got a new used copy of. But more would be welcome.)

C.W.S. said...

I think it's a little odd that the only reason that these two are commemorated together is that the May 1 date is the anniversary of the dedication of a church in Rome named for them both (which it is no longer; it's now called the Church of the Twelve Apostles).