The Liturgical Home: The Feast of St. Simon & St. Jude

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As the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude approaches on October 28th, the Church anticipates a unique celebration that honors not one but two remarkable saints and apostles. The Church commemorates them together due to ancient Christian traditions and writings that suggest their collaboration in spreading the Gospel and a shared martyrdom in distant Persia. Their cooperation and shared mission continue to inspire and guide the Christian community, reminding us that great deeds can be accomplished by working together.

St. Simon the Zealot

St. Simon was a devoted disciple of Jesus (Matt. 10:4, Mk. 3:18, Lk. 6:15, Acts 1:13). He was distinguished from Simon Peter because he was called “The Zealot” or “The Canaanite.” His epithet “Zealot” or “Zelotes” suggests that Simon may have belonged to the Zealot party. This ardent Jewish nationalist group resisted Roman occupation. While the Bible doesn’t explicitly confirm this connection, it underscores Simon’s passion and fervor for his beliefs.

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St. Simon the Zealot is one of the lesser-detailed apostles in the New Testament, and as such, much of his iconographic representation has been established by tradition. Art often depicts him with a saw due to his alleged martyrdom from being sawn in half. 

St. Jude (Thaddeus) 

St. Jude, also known as “Thaddaeus,” was another faithful disciple of Jesus (Matt. 10:3, Mk. 3:18, Lk. 6:16, Acts 1:13). He is specifically remembered for his inquiry into why Jesus revealed himself to only a select few rather than the entire world. This intriguing question, posed by St. Jude in John 14:22-24, reflects his contemplative nature. Catholics believe the Apostle Jude, who is referred to twice as “Jude, the brother of James” (Lk. 6:16, Acts 1:13) to be the same as the brother of St. James of Jerusalem and a relative of Jesus, who wrote the Epistle of Jude (Jude 1:1). Protestants differ on this, taking a more direct reading of James of Jerusalem and the Epistle of Jude’s author as brothers of Jesus (Matt.13:55, Mark 6:3) and, therefore, unable to be the same as the apostles.

The Legend of King Abgar

According to Legend, King Abgar V of Edessa (a city in modern-day southeastern Turkey) suffered from leprosy. Having heard of Jesus’ miraculous healing powers, Abgar sent a letter to Jesus asking Him to come to Edessa and cure him. Jesus replied to King Abgar’s letter, expressing appreciation for his faith but explaining that He couldn’t come to Edessa because His mission in Jerusalem was not yet complete. However, He promised to send one of His disciples to Edessa after His Ascension to heal the king and bring him the truth of the Gospel. Jesus then took a cloth and pressed it to His face. His image miraculously appeared on the cloth. Later, St. Jude brought the miraculous image of Jesus to Edessa along with the Good News of the Gospel. Upon receiving the image, King Abgar was healed. Consequently, King Abgar and many of his subjects converted to Christianity.

Some ancient sources, like the historian Eusebius of Caesarea, mention the exchange of letters between Abgar and Jesus but not the image. Over time, the story of the image, known as The Image of Edessa or the Mandylion, became an integral part of the legend.

The image became one of the most venerated relics in Christian history. It was believed to have been taken to Constantinople in the 10th century and, according to some traditions, might have been identified (or confused) with the Shroud of Turin later. This is why art and iconography often depict St. Jude holding an image of Jesus in his hand.

Brothers in Apostleship

Both St. Simon and St. Jude were witnesses to significant moments in the life of Jesus and the early Christian community. They followed Jesus as he preached and ministered until his crucifixion, witnessed his resurrection, received his teachings during the 40 days post-resurrection, and were present at his ascension. Their enduring commitment led them to the upper room, where they joined fellow disciples in awaiting the promised Holy Spirit and became apostles of the Early Church.

The joint celebration of St. Simon and St. Jude also reflects their shared missionary journey. Tradition holds that they ventured to distant Persia, where they fearlessly preached the Gospel. Their unwavering dedication to spreading the Good News ultimately led to their martyrdom. Today, the relics of St. Jude find their place of honor in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, serving as a testament to their bold faith and joint mission.

The Acts of St. Simon and St. Jude

The Acts of Simon and Jude is an apocryphal text that narrates the missionary journey of the apostles Simon the Zealot and Jude to the Persian Empire. Like many other apocryphal acts of the apostles, this text was written to provide a narrative about the later lives and missions of these apostles for whom the canonical scriptures offer limited information.

In this account, the apostles arrived in the ancient city of Babylon and began preaching the Gospel. Their endeavors, however, were not without resistance. The apostles encountered two powerful magicians, Zaroes and Arphaxat, who tried to oppose their missionary efforts with their magical abilities.

In response, Simon and Jude began performing a series of miracles that served as a resounding counterpoint to the magicians’ enchantments. These miracles, performed in the name of Jesus, served as a testament to the power of Jesus and validated their message in the eyes of the local population. Even influential figures within the Persian realm found themselves drawn to the Christian faith, leading to a profound wave of conversions. After many successful conversions and establishing Christian communities, both apostles met their death as martyrs for their faith. 

St. Simon’s and St. Jude’s relics are believed to be located in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Ways to Celebrate the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude

  • Locate the area that used to be Persia on a map, then look at where Israel is. Discuss how far of a distance it would have been to travel by foot or by boat to spread the Gospel. 
  • Make Soul Cakes. Since The Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude occurs so close to All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day, Christians traditionally began to prepare food such as soul cakes starting on this day. 

Soul Cakes

  • ¾ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks medium size
  • 3¾ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 6–7 Tablespoons milk
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the egg yolks and mix again. Sift the flour and spices into the butter/sugar mixture. Gradually add the milk, combining with a spatula until the dough comes together. Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Knead the dough with your hands until well combined. Add half the raisins and knead them in the dough. Add the rest of the raisins while kneading the dough. Roll the dough with a rolling pin about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the cakes into round shapes using a round cookie cutter. Transfer the cakes to a baking tray layered with parchment paper. Leave space between the cakes. Cut a cross on each cake. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden. Dust the cakes with powdered sugar.


Photo by Nheyob of stained glass, Sts. Simon & Jude at Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church (Dayton, Ohio). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Author

Ashley Tumlin Wallace

Ashley Tumlin Wallace, the author of the Liturgical Home series of books and articles at Anglican Compass, is a homeschooling mom of four and the wife of an Anglican priest. She and her family live in the panhandle of Florida.

View more from Ashley Tumlin Wallace

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