Thursday, July 24, 2014

St. James the Greater, "Slayer of the Moors"

July 25th is celebrated in the Universal Church as the Feast Day of Saint James the Greater, Apostle. At least one of Walt's agents was named after St. James, so, for those who don't know, an introduction of the saint follows, along with a few words about why he is known in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries as "Santiago Matamoros" -- Saint James the Moor-slayer.

Walt has had the privilege of visiting the shrine at Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia (northwestern Spain), which honours James the brother of John. The Gospels (Matthew 4:21-22; Mark 1:19-20; Luke 5:10-11) tell us the two were fishermen, the sons of Zebedee, partners with Simon Peter. Jesus called them from mending their nets beside the sea of Galilee at the beginning of His ministry. James, the son of Zebedee, is called "the Greater" to distinguish him from the St. James the Lesser, another of the twelve Apostles, who was apparently shorter. No kidding. Source: the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The Catholic Encyclopedia also tells us that Our Lord nicknamed James and John "the sons of thunder", because they were burning and impetuous in their evangelical zeal and severe in temper. (Mark 3:17) The two brothers showed their fiery temperament against "a certain man casting out devils" in the name of the Christ. John, answering, said: "We [James is probably meant] forbade him, because he followeth not with us" (Luke 9:49). When the Samaritans refused to receive Christ, James and John said, "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?" (Luke 9:54; cf. 9:49).

In Matthew 20:21-23 it is recorded that Salome, the brothers' mother, asked Jesus "that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom." Our Lord replied "You know not what you ask. Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink?" The brothers, not knowing the deeper meaning of the words, said they could. And Jesus told them that indeed they would do so.

According to Tradition, St. James the Greater preached Christianity in Spain sometime between the Ascension and his return to Judaea and martyrdom in A.D. 44. At that year's Passover, Herod Agrippa I (grandson of Herod the Great) "killed James, the brother of John, with the sword." He was the first of the Apostles to be martyred, "seeing that it pleased the Jews". (Acts 12:1-3)

The saint's followers are believed to have carried his body to the coast and put it into a stone boat, which was carried by Holy Angels and the wind beyond the Pillars of Hercules (the straits of Gibraltar), to land near Padrón, on the Atlantic coast of northern Spain. The local queen, Lupa, provided the team of oxen used to draw the body from Padrón to the site of the marble tomb, a little way inland, which she had also provided. James was believed to have been buried with two of his own disciples, Athanasius and Theodore. The site of his tomb was forgotten for some eight centuries.

Early in the 9th century, a hermit, Pelayo, was led by a vision to the spot. The tomb was rediscovered, and the relics authenticated by the local bishop as those of St. James. To protect the sacred relics from the invading Norman French, they were moved to Compostela -- "field of stars" -- which became one of the three greatest places of pilgrimage in the world, the other two being Rome and Jerusalem.

Now we come to the "Matamoros" part. At the time the tomb of St. James was found and his relics moved, Spain sorely needed a champion to inspire Christians against the invading Moors. "Moors" -- the Arabian Muslims inhabiting the northern coast of Africa, including present-day Morocco. Think Moor-occo! Thus the rediscovery came at a most propitious moment.

Legend has it that St. James -– Santiago -– appeared to Christian troops during the Battle of Clavijo in 844. Inspired by the vision of the saint, the Spanish Christians defeated a much bigger army of Muslims. Conflict between Christians and Muslims raged in the Iberian peninsula for the next six-and-a-half centuries, until 1492, and Santiago was recognized and adopted as the divine leader of the Christian forces. He was given the name Matamoros, "Slayer of Moors" i.e. killer of Muslims.

Santiago subsequently became the patron saint of Spain. "Santiago y cierra, España!" -- "St. James and attack, for Spain!" -- became the battle cry of Spanish armies as they slowly recovered the Iberian peninsula from its Muslim rulers. The cry persisted into modern times and was frequently used as a nationalistic slogan during the Spanish Civil War and in the Franco era that followed.

Today, such sentiments are politically incorrect. Pope Francis tells us the Muslims are our friends, we all worship the same God and whether you're Christian or Jewish or Muslim doesn't really matter. Of course that's heresy, but that's the nub of the false ecumenism which the Vatican keeps preaching at us. Meanwhile, the Muslims have reinvaded not just Iberia, but all of Europe. Walt recommends a prayerful visit to Santiago de Compostela.

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