The Holy Apostle James, the Brother of God (Adelphótheos) was the son of the Righteous Joseph before he was betrothed to the Most Holy Theotokos. Tradition says that Joseph had other sons with his first wife. Thus, James was called the Lord’s brother. Saint James had been a Nazirite, a man or woman consecrated to God for a limited time. During the period of consecration the Nazirites vowed to to abstain from wine and other intoxicating beverages, they could not cut their hair, and all contact with a corpse was forbidden (Numbers 6:1-21).
When the Savior began to proclaim the Kingdom of God, Saint James believed in Christ and became His Apostle. Later, he was chosen as the first Bishop of Jerusalem.
Saint James presided over the Council of Jerusalem and his word was decisive (Acts 15). In his thirty years as bishop, Saint James converted many Jews to Christianity. Angered by this, the Pharisees and the Scribes plotted together to kill the holy bishop. They led him up on the pinnacle of the Jerusalem Temple and asked him what he thought of Jesus. The holy Apostle bore witness that Christ is the Messiah, which was not the response the Pharisees were expecting. Enraged, the Jewish leaders threw him off the roof. He did not die at once, but gathering his final strength, he prayed to the Lord for his enemies while they were stoning him. Saint James’ martyrdom occurred about 63 A.D.
The holy Apostle James composed a Divine Liturgy, which formed the basis of the Liturgies of Saints Basil the Great and John Chrysostom. The Church has preserved an Epistle of Saint James, one of the books of the New Testament. In it Saint James advises: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath” James 1:19) and “Be doers of the word, and not just hearers, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
In 1853, Patriarch Hierótheos of Alexandria sent a portion of the relics of Saint James to Moscow.
The Church distinguishes between the Holy Apostle James the Brother of God, Saint James the son of Zebedee (April 30), and Saint James the son of Alphaeus (October 9).
Saint James the Apostle is also commemorated on the Sunday after the Nativity of Christ, with the Prophet-King David and Saint Joseph the Betrothed.
According to some, this Saint was a son of Joseph the Betrothed, born of the wife that the latter had before he was betrothed to the Ever-virgin. Hence he was the brother of the Lord, Who was also thought to be the son of Joseph (Matt. 13: 55). But some say that he was a nephew of Joseph, and the son of his brother Cleopas, who was also called Alphaeus and Mary his wife, who was the first cousin of the Theotokos. But even according to this genealogy, he was still called, according to the idiom of the Scriptures, the Lord’s brother because of their kinship.
This Iakovos is called the Less (Mark 15:40) by the Evangelists to distinguish him from Iakovos, the son of Zebedee, who was called the Great. He became the first Bishop of Jerusalem, elevated to this episcopal rank by the Apostles, according to Eusebius (Eccl. Hist., Book II: 23), and was called Obliah, that is, the Just, because of his great holiness and righteousness. Having ascended the crest of the Temple on the day of the Passover at the prompting of all, he bore testimony from there concerning his belief in Jesus, and he proclaimed with a great voice that Jesus sits at the right hand of the great power of God and shall come again upon the clouds of heaven. On hearing this testimony, many of those present cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” But the Scribes and Pharisees cried, “So, even the just one hath been led astray,” and at the command of Ananias the high priest, the Apostle was cast down headlong from thence, then was stoned, and while he prayed for his slayers, his head was crushed by the wooden club wielded by a certain scribe. The first of the Catholic (General) Epistles written to the Jews in the Diaspora who believed in Christ was written by this Iakovos.
James is called the Lord’s brother because he was the son of the righteous Joseph, the betrothed of the Most-holy Theotokos. When the righteous Joseph was near death, he divided his estate among his sons, and wanted to leave a portion to the Lord Jesus, the son of the Most-holy Virgin, but all the other brothers opposed this, not regarding Jesus as their brother. James greatly loved Jesus and declared that he would include Jesus in his share. That is why he is called the Lord’s brother. From the beginning, James was devoted to the Lord Jesus. According to tradition, he traveled to Egypt with the Most-holy Virgin and Joseph, when Herod sought to slay the newborn King. Later, as soon as he heard Christ’s teaching, James lived by it. It is said of him that he never ate fat or oil, but lived on just bread and water, and was a virgin to the end of his life on earth. He often kept vigil at night and prayed to God.
The Lord numbered him among His Seventy Apostles. Following His glorious Resurrection, the Lord appeared to him especially, as the Apostle Paul testifies (I Corinthians 15:7). He was Bishop of Jerusalem for thirty years and zealously governed the Church of God. At the instruction of the Lord, James compiled the first Liturgy, which seemed very long for later Christians, and St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom shortened it. He converted many Jews and Greeks to the Christian Faith, and even the unbelieving Jews were amazed at his righteousness, referring to him as “James the Just.” When Ananias became High Priest, he and other Jewish elders determined to kill James for being a preacher of Christ. Once, during the feast of Passover, when many people had gathered in Jerusalem, the elders forced James to climb onto the roof of the Temple, and tried to make him speak against Christ. He climbed up and spoke to the people of Christ as the Son of God and the true Messiah, of His Resurrection and His eternal glory in the heavens.
The infuriated priests and elders pushed him off the roof; he fell and was severely injured, but was still alive. Then, one man ran up and struck him on the head with a fuller’s club with such force that his brains spilled out. Thus, this most glorious apostle of Christ died a martyr’s death, and went to live eternally in the Kingdom of his Lord. James was sixty-six years old when he suffered for Christ.
Apolytikion of James (Iakovos), the Brother of the Lord
As the Lord’s disciple, O righteous One, you received the Gospel, as Martyr, you have unwavering courage, as the Lord’s brother, you have forthrightness, as Hierarch, intercession. Intercede with Christ our God, that our souls may be saved.
Kontakion of James (Iakovos), the Brother of the Lord
O wondrous Iakovos, God the Logos, only-begotten of the Father, who dwelt among us in latter days, declared you, the first shepherd and teacher of Jerusalem, and faithful steward of the spiritual mysteries. Wherefore, we all honor you, O Apostle.
Source: oca.org / goarch.org / westserbdio.org