Pentecost 3

The season of Pentecost continues through July and August. Several notable saints days fall in these months, and also the day on which we recall The Transfiguration of our Lord.

St Thomas - July 3rd, p.785 ASB. This apostle and saint is a favourite of many. He is often referred to as Doubting Thomas. As you will recall it was Thomas who insisted on seeing, touching, the wounds of Christ after his resurrection so that he might believe. The gospel account of this event tells us perhaps more about Jesus knowing and responding to our individual needs and struggles of faith. To me Thomas is not so much to be remembered for his doubt as for his faith.

The Syrian Church was the first to commemorate Thomas but by the 8th century he was also remembered in the West. The Collect was written by Cranmer in 1549 and most of the slight revisions come from the South African 'Modern Collects' 1972.

St Mary Magdalen - July 22nd, p.787 ASB. This is a relatively late feast, there is evidence to suggest it was made a day of obligation at the Council of Oxford in 1222. Cranmer made it a red letter day in the 1549 Prayer Book but in the Prayer Books of 1552 and 1662 it was reduced to a black letter day ( because it was deemed of lesser importance). The Prayer Book of 1928 restored it to its status of a red letter day and so it remains today. Mary Magdalen is the only woman other than Mary the Mother of Jesus to be honoured with a major feast day.

St James the Apostle - July 25th, p.789 ASB. This is St James the Great and the St James who is one of the patron saints of our church, hence St Peter with St James. (The original St James church in Nottingham was closed, and an ecclesiastical merger took place.) There is little information to indicate why this particular date was chosen for his feast day. It seems likely that in early times he would have been commemorated with his brother John on the 27th December.

James was the first apostle to die for the faith. He was killed in Jerusalem by order of King Herod Agrippa. There seems little evidence of James having been buried or even having preached in Spain but he was "adopted" as the defender of Christianity against the Moors. It was in his honour that Santiago de Compostela was founded and became an important European centre of pilgrimage from the 12th to 15th centuries. In a sense the cultic following of James arose at the time of the crusades and perhaps James became a saint of convenience for the Crusading Movement.

The Collect for the day is another by Cranmer and has been used with little alteration since 1549. It is based on the call of St James in Matthew 4 : 21-22.

The Transfiguration of our Lord - August 6th p.791 ASB. This is a feast day of our Lord. A day of celebration when white vestments and hangings are used. It was declared a universal feast day in 1457 by Pope Callistus III though may have been observed in the East since the fourth century. The collect is recent, descending from the 1928 Prayer Book.

This day holds importance for us as we read again the gospel story of Christ on the mountain, appearing transformed in glory with Elijah and Moses to the puzzled and stunned disciples Peter, James and John. Christ's holiness (represent by the cloud), Sonship, and destiny are revealed and asserted in the presence of the prophets. Our human desire to pin down and contain that which is beyond our grasp yet in our presence is displayed an the almost comic scene as the ever-keen Peter offers to build shelters. We are reassured though that in his enthusiasm he did not miss the crux of the matter. The voice comes from the cloud - this is the biblical picture and portrayal for God, the Holiest of holies, speaking, - and declares "This is my Son, my chosen; listen to him." We too are God's sons and daughters and share in the transforming love of God. The Collect reflects our hope that we shall be changed into the likeness of Christ, from glory to glory.

St Bartholemew - 24th August, p.794 ASB. The apostle Bartholemew of Matthew, Mark and Luke is generally thought to be Nathanial in John's gospel. Little is known of him but there are rather speculative suggestions that he may have travelled as far as Armenia and India. He was martyred and his relics were supposed to have been finally placed in the church of St Bartholemew on the Tiber. There is a story that his arm was brought to Canterbury in 11th century by Cnut's wife. (Does anyone know if it is still there?!)

Helen Walker, June 1997
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 5th July 1997