Sunday, July 25, 2010

St. James and Hospitality

Today is the Feast of St. James, but what do we know about him? James, son of Zebedee (died 44) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of John the Apostle. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke state that James and John were with their father by the seashore when Jesus called them to follow him. According to the Gospel of Mark, James and John were called Boanerges, or the "Sons of Thunder” - reference to their temper perhaps? James was one of only three apostles whom Jesus selected to bear witness to his Transfiguration. The Acts of the Apostles records that Agrippa I had James executed by sword.

His remains are said to be in Santiago de Compostela in Spain and Saint James is the Patron Saint of Spain. The traditional pilgrimage to the grave of the saint, known as the "Way of St. James", has become the most popular pilgrimage for Western European Catholics from the early Middle Ages onwards. In 2008, 125,141 pilgrims registered as having completed the final 100 km walk (200 km by bicycle) to Santiago to qualify for a Compostela. When 25 July falls on a Sunday, it is a ″Jubilee″ year, and a special east door is opened for entrance into the Santiago Cathedral. In the last Jubilee year, 2004, 179,944 pilgrims received a Compostela.

According to ancient local tradition, on 2 January of the year AD 40, the Virgin Mary appeared to James on the bank of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta, while he was preaching the Gospel in Iberia. She appeared upon a pillar, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and that pillar is conserved and venerated within the present Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza, Spain. Following that apparition, St James returned to Judea, where he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I in the year 44.
The 12th-century Historia Compostellana commissioned by bishop Diego Gelmírez provides a summary of the legend of St James as it was believed at Compostela. Two propositions are central to it: first, that St James preached the gospel in Iberia as well as in the Holy Land; second, that after his martyrdom at the hands of Herod Agrippa I his disciples carried his body by sea to Iberia, where they landed at Padrón on the coast of Galicia which tradition says was covered in scallop shells, and took it inland for burial at Santiago de Compostela.



A friend - Cycling sabbatical trip from his home to Santiago de Compostella.
To qualify for a Compostella - the shell symbolising the pilgrimage, you have to have walked the 100 kms (or cycled 200kms) and traditionally relied on the hospitality of others, getting your pilgrims passport stamped en route.

Connexion between the scallop shell, the symbol of St James and the symbol worn by Pilgrims to Santiago and Baptism. Baptism as pilgrimage to a particular and specific place - to God through the landscape of life. The grooves in the shell, which come together at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination: the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. The scallop shell is also a metaphor for the pilgrim.

There is a strong connexion between pilgrimage and hospitality - Hebrews 13:1-4: Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Mutual love - the love between people. 3 types of love: Philio - love of fellow, Eros - erotic, romantic love, and Agape. Agape goes the extra mile, love that is self giving, love that takes us out of our comfort zones, the love of God...

Hospitlaity is not just about entertaining guests... In Ancient Greece, hospitality was to be under the protection of Zeus, the chief God of the Greek pantheon. Zeus was also attributed with the title 'Xenios Zeus' ('xenos' means stranger), emphasizing the fact that hospitality was of the utmost importance. A stranger passing outside a Greek house could be invited inside the house by the family. The host washed the stranger's feet, offered food and wine, and only after the guest was comfortable could ask his or her name.

Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah to the Lord at Mamre on their way to Sodom (Genesis 18)... The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate. They said to him, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’ The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.’ But Sarah denied, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. He said, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’Then the men set out from there, and they looked towards Sodom...

Hospitality and transformation - the equalising of the status of stranger and host. The Greek concept of sacred hospitality is illustrated in the story of Telemachus and Nestor. When Telemachus arrived to visit Nestor, Nestor was unaware that his guest was the son of his old comrade Odysseus. Nonetheless, Nestor welcomes Telemachus and his party lavishly, thus demonstrating the relationship between hostis, "stranger," and hostire, "equalize," and how the two combine in the concept of hospitality. Also, in a sense Abraham and God changed through hospitality

Hospitality and us - the receptionist and the company. The warmth of our welcome, the quality of the coffee and biscuits, the genuineness and friendliness of our conversation echo that story and the story of God in Jesus who was prepared to go the extra mile in coming amongst us, revealing the love of God to us, and dying and rising to show us that not even death can separate us from the love of God. Offer hospitality, welcome, love. abundantly, freely without limit, for we might indeed might be welcoming St James or God himself unawares.

1 comment:

nancyo said...

I know that this is an old post, but I found it via a Google image search for icons of St. James. I'm planning to paint an icon of St. James the Pilgrim and am doing some research in preparation. Do you have any identifying information about the icon that you feature here?