Feast of St. Simeon

Dan Graves, MSL

Feast of St. Simeon

Storm clouds hung over Palestine. As a result of Jewish revolt, the Romans were marching in. Simeon, the bishop of Jerusalem remembered Christ's prophetic warnings about the destruction the city. He led its Christians to the other side of the Jordan where they settled in a small city named Pella. In this way, the Christians were saved.

According to one tradition, Simeon had been chosen leader of the world's first church several years earlier when his brother James was thrown off the temple mount and stoned by the Pharisees. Simeon boldly denounced the Jews for their murder of James.

Supposedly Simeon (or Simon) was the son of Cleophas, who was the brother of the Joseph who became the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In this view, James and Simeon were nephews of Joseph and first cousins to Jesus (but the Bible simply calls them brothers of Jesus). Indeed, this is the same James whose ossuary was reputedly found in 2002.

After the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of its temple, Simeon led the Christians back to the defeated city. They lived among the ruins and won many Jewish converts.

Infuriated with Jewish rebellions, Emperor Vespasian had ordered the massacre of all direct descendants of David. That way they would have no one to push forward for king. Simeon escaped death at that time.

But when Trajan ordered a similar massacre, Simeon was not able to escape. Some heretics and enemy Jews denounced Simeon as one of the line of David--and a Christian, too. The emperor's agents seized Simeon. He had been bishop of Jerusalem for forty three years.

The old man, who was supposedly about 120 at the time, held steadfast despite several days of torture. Governor Atticus expressed admiration at his courage. According to tradition, the Romans finally crucified Simeon in the year 107. His is honored with a feast in the church calendar on this day, February 18.

Bibliography:

  1. "Saint Simeon, Bishop of Jerusalem, Martyr." http://www.magnificat.ca/cal/engl/02-18.htm
  2. "St. Simeon." Catholic Online Saints.
  3. "Burial Box of James the Brother of Jesus." Biblical Archaeology Review. (Nov/Dec, 2002).

Last updated June, 2007

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