James was able to take part, together with Peter and John, in Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and in the Transfiguration.
In one case James experiences the Lord's glory, he sees the divine splendour shining out in Jesus. On the other occasion he finds himself face to face with suffering and humiliation, he sees with his own eyes how the Son of God humbles himself, making himself obedient unto death. The latter experience was certainly an opportunity for him to grow in faith, to adjust the unilateral, triumphalist interpretation of the former experience: he had to discern that the Messiah was not only surrounded by honour and glory, but also by suffering and weakness. Christ's glory was fulfilled precisely on the cross, in his sharing in our sufferings.
This growth in faith was brought to completion by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, so that James, when the moment of supreme witness came, would not draw back. Early in the first century King Herod Agrippa, as Luke tells us, started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John. The brevity of the news, devoid of any narrative detail, reveals on the one hand how normal it was for Christians to witness to the Lord with their own lives, and on the other, that James had a position of relevance in the Church of Jerusalem.
A later tradition, dating back at least to Isidore of Seville, speaks of a visit he made to Spain to evangelise that important region of the Roman Empire. According to another tradition, it was his body instead that had been taken to Spain, to the city of Santiago de Compostela. As we all know, that place became the object of great veneration and is still the destination of numerous pilgrimages, not only from Europe but from the whole world. This explains the representation of Saint James with the pilgrim's staff and the scroll of the Gospel in hand, typical features of the travelling Apostle and characteristics of the pilgrimage of Christian life.
Consequently we learn much from Saint James: promptness in accepting the Lord's call even when he asks us to leave the boat of our human securities, enthusiasm in following him on the paths that he indicates to us, readiness to witness to him with courage, if necessary to the point of making the supreme sacrifice of life. James stands before us as an eloquent example of generous adherence to Christ. He who initially had requested through his mother to be seated with his brother next to the Master in his kingdom was precisely the first to drink the chalice of the Passion and to share martyrdom with the apostles. Summarising everything, we can say that the journey, not only exterior but above all interior, from the mount of the Transfiguration to the mount of the agony, symbolises the entire pilgrimage of Christian life, among the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God. In following Jesus, like Saint James, we know that even in difficulties we are on the right path.
Pope Benedict XVI. "The Glory of Sharing in Christ's Chalice," excerpt from General Audience, 21 June 2006. Libreria Editrice Vaticana (June 21, 2006).
Pope Benedict XVI is the author of Jesus of Nazareth, Vol II, Jesus of Nazareth, Vol I, Caritas in Veritate: Charity in Truth, Saved in Hope: Spe Salvi, God Is Love: Deus Caritas Est,The End of Time?: The Provocation of Talking about God, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, Salt of the Earth: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church at the End of the Millennium, God and the World: Believing and Living in Our Time, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, The Spirit of the Liturgy, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Introduction to Christianity, Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, Behold the Pierced One, and God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life.Copyright © 2006 Libreria Editrice Vaticana
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