27 December 2011

27 December - St. John the Evangelist; 3rd Day of Christmas

Weather: The weather today foretells the weather of March.

If the sun shines on the 3rd day of Christmas, there will be a great fight among poor men, but peace between rulers and powerful men.

If St. John’s day is dark, the following year will be good.

At Ephesus, the birthday of St. John, apostle and evangelist, who, after writing his gospel, and after enduring exile and writing the divine Apocalypse, lived till the time of the emperor Trajan, and founded and governed the churches of all Asia.  Worn out with age, he died in the sixty-eighth year after the passion of our Lord, and was buried near Ephesus.

Today is the feast of Saint John the Evangelist, the beloved disciple, author of the 4th Gospel, three Epistles, and the Book of Revelations.  As Stephen represents those who are martyrs in will - that is, who offer their lives for their Lord - and in deed - they are killed for His sake, John represents those who are martyrs in will, but not deed.  However, it wasn't for want of trying on the part of the usual suspects.

John and his brother James were sons of Zebedee, and fishermen like their father.  Having followed John the Baptist for a time, both were called by Christ to be his disciples.  John seems to have been in the very thick of things, being one of the three who witnessed the Transfiguration, and who accompanied Christ to the Garden of Gethsemane.  He remained at the foot of the Cross, when everyone else had hidden themselves, and received the care of Our Lady from her Son.

[I've often wondered if he was trying to live down his mother's public request that her sons sit on the right and left of Our Lord in His Kingdom.  It didn't make either young man popular with the other Ten.]

Tradition says that he remained at Jerusalem until the death of the Virgin Mary, then set out and preached the gospel throughout Asia Minor, with a home-base at Ephesus.  During the persecution under Domitian, he is said to have been taken to Rome, and plunged into a vat of boiling oil.  Miraculously, he received no injury and continued preaching.  The Emperor ordered him to drink a cup of poisoned wine, which he did so, after making the Sign of the Cross over it, and again - no effect.  He was sent to the mines of Patmos, but upon the accession of Nerva, he was released and returned to Ephesus, where he died at age 94.

Based on Saint John’s encounter with the poisoned cup, it was a tradition today for the laity to bring wine to church to be blessed.  Ol’ Naogeorgus sneered:

"Next John the son of Zebadee hath his appointed day,
Who once by cruel Tyrants will, constrained was they say
Strong poison up to drink; therefore the Papists do believe
That whoso puts their trust in him, no poison them can grieve:
The wine beside that hallowed is in worship of his name,
The Priests do give the people that bring money for the same.
And after with the self-same wine are little manchets made,
Against the boisterous winter storms, and sundry such-like trade.
The men upon this solemn day do take this holy wine
To make them strong; so do the maids to make them fair and fine."

The blessed wine was considered a sure protection against poisoning [which is as may be.  I, for one, am not going to put it to the test.]  Still, it is a good day to toast the good saint with a glass of good wine.  There is a blessing for the wine- called Saint John's Love - here, and a nice recipe for Mulled Wine here.

And for dinner tonight?  In honor of Saint John's bath in boiling oil, it should be something fried.  Fish and chips, butterfly shrimp, chicken-fried steak (or forget the steak, just fry the chicken), that lovely Quebec dish called 'Poutine', or the Portuguese dish Bacalhau a Bras.

And perhaps a blessing over it to keep it from clogging the arteries.

"Saint John the Evangelist", The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, c1440. Pierpont Morgan Library.
Detail of Saint John the Evangelist with the Poisoned Cup by Alonso Cano. 1636. Louvre.