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``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Feast of
St. John

 
 
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 wasn't martyred.
 
St. John holding the poisoned cup
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 this recipe:

St. John's Love (serves 8)

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!

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