Great Martyr James the Persian the Sawn-Asunder
Saint James the Persian was born into a wealthy, yet pious Christian family. He married a Christian wife and raised their children in piety. James occupied a high position of the Persian court and was dearly loved by the Emperor Izdegerd. On a particular military campaign, James was seduced away from his Christian faith out of fear, and offered a sacrifice to the idols with the emperor and his court. Having found out that James had denied his faith, his mother and wife wrote him a lengthy, heart-felt letter reprimanding him of his shameless deed and threatened that if he did not reacknowledge his faith, they would refuse to see him any longer. Realising the gravity of his sin, James repented of his impiety and began weeping loudly, begging the Lord for forgiveness. Hearing his prayers to the Christian God, some Persian officials denounced James to the emperor, who interrogated the martyr. Saint James bravely confessed his love for Christ and said that there was nothing that could deter him, even a thousand torturous deaths. Enraged, the once friendly emperor condemned the martyr to a gruesome death. The torturers commenced their deed by cutting off each of Saint James’ fingers individually, beginning from the thumb to the fifth finger (see note below). After this, they continued with his toes, then his wrists, ankles, elbows, knees, shoulders, and finally his thighs, until he was left a stump, crying out to the Lord in prayer of thanksgiving. Finally, the glorious martyr was beheaded and pious Christians collected his holy relics and reverently buried them.
A Reflection Offered By Saint Nikolai Velimirovich
When the executioners severed the thumb of St. James’s right hand, he said: “Even a vine is pruned in this manner, so that in time a young branch may grow.” At the severing of his second finger, he said: “Receive also, O Lord, the second branch of Thy sowing.” At the severing of his third finger, he said: “I bless the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” At the severing of his fourth finger, he said: “O Thou who acceptest the praise of the four beasts [symbols of the four evangelists], accept the suffering of the fourth finger.” At the severing of the fifth finger, he said: “May my rejoicing be fulfilled as that of the five wise virgins at the wedding feast.” During the severing of the sixth finger, he said: “Thanks be to Thee, O Lord, Who at the sixth hour stretched out Thy most pure arms on the Cross, that Thou hast made me worthy to offer Thee my sixth finger.” At the severing of the seventh finger, he said: “Like David who praised Thee seven times daily, I praise Thee through the seventh finger severed for Thy sake.” At the severing of theeighth finger, he said: “On the eighth day Thou Thyself, O Lord, wast circumcised.” At the severing of theninth finger, he said: “At the ninth hour, Thou didst commend Thy spirit into the hands of Thy Father, O my Christ, and I offer Thee thanks during the suffering of my ninth finger.” At the severing of the tenth finger, he said: “On a ten-stringed harp I sing to Thee, O God, and thank Thee that Thou hast made me worthy to endure the severing of the ten fingers of my two hands, for the Ten Commandments are written on two tablets.” Oh, what wonderful faith and love! Oh, the noble soul of this knight of Christ!
Ἦχος δ’. Ταχὺ προκατάλαβε.
Ὁ Μάρτυς Ἰάκωβος, ὁ τῆς Περσίδας βλαστός, τὸν δόλιον δράκοντα, τοὶς τῶν αἱμάτων κρουνοίς, ἀθλήσας ἀπέπνιξε, πίστει γὰρ ἀληθείας, μεληδὸν τετμημένος, ὤφθη τροπαιοφόρος, τοῦ Σωτῆρος ὁπλίτης, πρεσβεύων ἀδιαλείπτως, ὑπὲρ τῶν ψυχῶν ἠμῶν.
Ἦχος β’. Τὰ ἄνω ζητῶν.
Πεισθεὶς τῇ καλῇ, συζύγῳ καρτερόψυχε, καὶ τὸ φοβερόν, κριτήριον φοβούμενος, τῶν Περσῶν τὸ φρόνημα, καὶ τὸν φόβον Ἰάκωβε κατέπτυσας, καὶ ἀνεδείχθης Μάρτυς θαυμαστός, τὸ σῶμα ὡς κλῆμα συντεμνόμενος.
Troparion — Tone 4
You astounded all, long-suffering James, by enduring horrible tortures with great patience. / As the evil assembly performed the slaughter, / you uttered prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord. / Through your sufferings you received your crown, / and came to the throne of the heavenly King, Christ God. / Entreat Him to save our souls!
Kontakion — Tone 2
You listened to your faithful wife / and contemplated the judgment of God, holy James; / you despised the threats and commands of the Persians, / accepting the cutting of your body as though you were a vine. / Therefore you were revealed as a martyr worthy of honor.