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Judas Brother of Jesus Life and Spreading the Gospel

Hope in the thorns: St. Jude's message for today

Saint Jude the Apostle

In life's darkest moments, the faithful turn to St. Jude, one of Christ's closest disciples, with a fervent plea: "The paths of my life are strewn with thorns, and every minute bears witness to tears and sighs. Providence is hidden from my eyes, and faith wavers in my heart. Do not leave me in such a dire state; come to my aid!"

This powerful invocation encapsulates the unwavering devotion to a saint who, through courage, patience, and conviction, spread the Saviour's teachings, even unto martyrdom. St. Jude's legacy transcends mere biblical narrative, embodying the extraordinary ability of ordinary believers to overcome seeming impossibilities through the might of their faith.

Jude or Judas? Who was the Saintly Jude?

St. Jude is depicted as a young man with dark hair, a slight moustache and a beard, holding a scroll and blessing with his hands. Greek icons show him this way, while Russian icons dress him in green and red robes. His saintly identity is revealed through inscriptions, as his image lacks distinctive attributes.

He was born in the Galilean city of Nazareth. His father was the righteous Joseph, who was betrothed to the Most Pure Virgin Mary after becoming a widower. Joseph's lineage is traced back to the kings David and Solomon. His mother was Joseph's first wife. Jude was also the brother of Saint Apostle James the Just, who was destined to become the head of the Jerusalem Church. So Jude was not Jesus’s blood brother, only his half-brother.

Saint Apostle Jude Thaddeus

Icon of Saint Jude Thaddeus

His name — Jude — was one of the most common in Palestine in Old Testament times. However, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver, turned the name into a byword for betrayal for centuries. No matter how saintly his namesakes were, they couldn't change the curse attached to Judas. They had to make use of various nicknames.

Saint Apostle Jude was no exception and also had many names. The Evangelist Matthew calls him Lebbaeus, meaning "heartfelt," "intelligent," and "courageous." The Holy Evangelist Mark refers to Jude as Thaddaeus, which translates to "praiseworthy." However, in the Gospel, in the only place where Saint Apostle Jude is mentioned, there is an annotation: "not Iscariot."

Is Jude a brother of Jesus? Blood or Belief?

Saint Matthew called him one of Christ's "brethren," signifying a blood tie to Jesus. Yet, Saint Jude never claimed to be the "brother of Jesus" for compelling reasons. Byzantine sources reveal that Jesus' half-brothers, blinded by familiarity, failed to see Him as the Lord. When dividing their father's land, they denied Jesus any share, except for James, who always recognized Him as the Messiah.

Saint Theophylact noted that reproaches against Christ often came from Joseph's children, including Jude, driven by envy and ill will. Only after Christ's ascension did Jude embrace Him as the Son of God. In humility, he chose to sign his letters as "Jude, brother of James," honouring the sibling who had unwavering faith in the Messiah.

From Judea to Armenia: how far did Jude spread the Gospel?

Jude Thaddeus dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel, venturing into the wildest pagan territories. Tirelessly, he journeyed across rivers, mountains, and deserts, planting seeds of faith in hearts from bustling cities to remote villages, from inns and oases to pagan temples and catacombs. Starting his mission in Judea and Galilee, Jude moved through Samaria and Idumea, then traversed Arabia, Syria, and Mesopotamia, finally reaching Edessa. There, he completed the work left by his namesake, the apostle Thaddeus of the Seventy.

Jude's ministry took him to many lands, converting nations and guiding them to salvation. His final journey led him from Edessa to Greater Armenia. In the shadow of the Ararat Mountains, he converted many from idolatry to Christianity, even baptizing the wife of the Armenian king. For this act, he was arrested. Jude's earthly journey ended on the cross, crucified and killed by a multitude of arrows by decree of the Armenian king.

The General Epistle of Jude

The General Epistle of Jude

What hope does Jude offer in a world of selfishness?

Chronicles tell of Jude's journey to Persia, where he penned his general epistle in Greek. This letter was not aimed at a specific group but at all believers surrounded by those who “defile their flesh, reject authority, and slander”. Jude warned of these people, saying, "What they do understand by instinct—like irrational animals—by these things they are destroyed" (Jude 1:10).

Indeed, as the Bible says, there is "Nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The enemy tirelessly works to blind and distract us, making life about what "I want" rather than the Lord's will. This deception tempts people to become their idols. Tragically, the enemy excels at his job.

Yet, Jude brings us hope: Jesus has already triumphed, and His Spirit dwells in believers everywhere. He urges, "But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life" (Jude 1:20-21). Though a culture of "irrational animals" may persist, a spiritual army of believers stands on the front lines with the Holy Spirit. We can live differently, love differently, and share the truth of the gospel.

Monastery of Saint Thaddeus

The Monastery of Saint Thaddeus in Qareh Kelisa, Iran

From Armenia to Rome: How did Saint Jude become a beacon for the hopeless?

Jude Thaddeus, venerated by Christians, rests in the Armenian Monastery of Saint Thaddeus in Iran. His relics, kept in Armenia's Etchmiadzin Monastery, journeyed to Chicago in 1929, reigniting faith in Saint Jude as a beacon for the hopeless. His sacred remains also grace St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Reims, Toulouse, Cologne, Lvov, and Odessa's Saint Elijah Monastery.

In a world fraught with stress and technological distractions, millions find solace in Saint Jude. He stands as a true friend and a beacon of hope, always ready to aid the desperate. In these tumultuous times, his presence is more vital than ever. The Orthodox Church honours him on 19 June (2 July new calendar).

July 01, 2024
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