Catholic Activity: Celebrating St. John the Apostle
Story of St. John and corresponding prayers
The second teacher in the suite of the great King is the beloved disciple St. John. So greatly did Christ love this disciple that He confided His own Mother, the Blessed Virgin, to his care. That is the reason why the feast of St. John is celebrated in the great Basilica of Our Lady. The dominant theme of the feast and the basis for its corporate unity with the coming of the Saviour is to be found in the Mass of the day. At the Gradual, Gospel and Communion, we read: "I wish him to remain thus until I come." Yesterday we celebrated the charity of the Saviour in the martyrdom of St. Stephen; today we celebrate the virginity of St. John. Our Lord wishes the children to learn from St. John that they must retain an innocence and purity of life similar to that of His beloved disciple in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. The Virgin Mother whom He gave on the Cross to the virgin disciple became the Mother of us all. Through her guiding hand and intercession the entire world comes to the Saviour.
St. John is particularly noted for his great charity. As he became a very aged man in Ephesus, much of his time was spent in teaching the precept of his Master: "Little children, love one another." The Roman Ritual contains a blessing for wine on his feast day "in remembrance and in honor of St. John who without any ill effects drank a cup of poisoned wine." After the last Gospel of the feast the priest blesses the wine or other beverages, reciting the psalm of the Good Shepherd. The oration speaks of the apostolic care necessary for all who are on their journey to God:
Holy God, Father almighty, eternal God, who didst will that thy Son, equal to Thee in eternity and substance should descend from heaven and in the fullness of time take temporal birth of the most holy Virgin Mary, so that He could seek the lost and wayward sheep and carry it on His shoulders to the sheepfold, and could cure the man fallen among robbers of his wounds by pouring in oil and wine, do Thou bless and sanctify this wine which Thou hast vintaged for man's drink. Whoever partakes of it on this holy solemnity, grant him life in body and soul. By Thy goodness let it be to him strength in the pilgrimage to prosper him on the way, that his journey may come to a happy termination. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.This is a very good occasion to teach children the proper usage of spirituous beverages. The introduction of a little blessed red wine on the feast of St. John at the principal meal of the day would have only a salutary effect upon the children. Theresa Mueller makes the following comments upon the days immediately following Christmas:
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst call Thyself the true vine and Thy holy apostles the branches, and didst desire to plant a chosen vineyard of all who love Thee, bless this wine and impart to it the power of Thy benediction. And as Thy beloved disciple John, Apostle and Evangelist intercedes for them that partake thereof, grant them security from all deadly and poisonous afflictions and constant good health of soul and body. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.
The liturgy, then, which we study night after night before the crib, sees to it that we do not get lost in the concentration on the childhood of our Saviour, calling our attention on the day after Christmas to the great martyrdom of St. Stephen the Deacon, who died praying for his enemies. On the third day is the feast of St. John, the Apostle, "whom Jesus loved." A beautiful custom is some old countries is the drinking of "St. John's love" on that day. Wine, blessed with a special blessing and prayers, is served in the home before the main meal: the father lifts the cup towards the mother. "I drink you the love of St. John"; she having answered: "I thank you for the love of St. John," drinks to the eldest child and so on including guests and servants. The simple beauty of this ceremony gives character and dignity to our family supper, too, especially if there is a John in the family, who celebrates the day of his patron saint.If any of the young boys of the family happens to belong to the Boy Scouts, it should not be forgotten that the eagle, which represents the highest Scout rank, symbolizes the apostle St. John. His wings spread for flight towards the Sun of Justice, whose rays give light and life. By the strength of sanctifying grace which comes from the Saviour, the scout is able to turn from the world, the flesh and the devil and to soar with the strength of the eagle drawn heavenwards to the heights of the resurrected and ascended Christ.
Activity Source: True Christmas Spirit by Rev. Edward J. Sutfin, Grail Publications, St. Meinrad, Indiana, 1955