Today, this third
day of Christmas, is the Feast of St. John.
St. John was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of St. James
the Greater (Feast day: 25 July)
who, together, were given the nickname "Boanerges" ("Sons of Thunder") by
Christ Himself. The men of Zebedee's family were fishermen, and it is possible
that SS. John and James were disciples of St. John the Baptist when they
encountered the One of Whom the Forerunner spoke. They were called just after
SS. Peter and Andrew -- two other fishermen brothers -- left everything behind
to follow Jesus, and SS. Peter, James, and John had the most prominent positions
of all the Apostles. It was these three who were present for the Transfiguration
and Christ's Agony in the Garden of Gethsemani. Peter and John were the two
who prepared for the Last Supper, at which John -- described as "the disciple
whom Jesus loved" -- sat next to Our Lord, with his head on Christ's chest.
St. John went with Peter to the palace of the high priest after Jesus was
arrested -- but it was John alone among the Apostles who stayed with Christ
during the Crucifixion. After the Resurrection, it was SS. John and Peter
among the Apostles who ran to the empty tomb after being told by St. Mary
Magdalen that He had risen.
After the Ascension and Pentecost, St. John remained prominent, accompanying
St. Peter when the lame man was healed in the Temple, being thrown into prison
with St. Peter, and preaching with St. Peter in Samaria. When Herod Agrippa
I came to power and the Apostles were scattered, he is said to have gone
to Asia Minor for a time, returning to Jerusalem by A.D. 51 and taking part
in the "Council of Jerusalem" spoken of in Acts.
Under the reign of Domitian, he was banished to the Greek island of Patmos
-- a small (10 miles by 6 miles) volcanic island in the Aegean Sea, near
the coast of Turkey, where the veil was lifted and he was granted the vision
of the Heavenly Jerusalem which he recounted in his Apocalypse ("apocalypse"
means "unveiling"). During the reign of Trajan, he returned to Ephesus where
he lived to a very, very old age. He was the only one of the Apostles who
Though he wasn't martyred, it wasn't for his enemies' lack of trying. According
to legend, he was served poisoned wine, but survived because he blessed the
wine before he put it to his lips; the poison rose from the chalice in the
shape of a serpent. In his happy memory, Catholics bring wine to church,
which the priest blesses, turning it into a sacramental called the "Love
of St. John." Catholics use this sacramental wine for special occasions
throughout the year and to give to the sick.
When it is drunk on his Feast Day, we drink it before dinner as a toast to
St. John. The Father of the house lifts his glass toward Mother and says,
"I drink you the love of St. John." The Mother replies "I thank you for the
Love of St. John" and then turns to the oldest child, lifts her glass, and
says, "I drink you the love of St. John..." -- and on it goes down the line
until each has been toasted.
The wine may be drunk as is, out of the bottle, or may be prepared as in
St. John's Love
1 quart red wine
3 whole cloves
1/16 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 two-inch cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
Pour the wine into a large saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients. Boil
for 5 minutes (this pretty much evaporates all of the alcohol). Serve hot,
clinking glasses with the toast "Drink the love of St. John!" I suggest doing
this in front of a roaring fire!