It is fitting that we begin the season of Advent on the Feast of the Holy Apostle Philip. According to the Gospel of St. John, Philip was one of the first called of the Apostles. The day after Andrew was called we see the event of the calling of Philip and like Andrew, who went and told his brother Peter about Jesus, Philip went and called his friend Nathaniel to tell him of what he had found.
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
According to Scripture, Philip was from the Bethsaida and was known to Andrew and Peter. Like the brothers, he was a fisherman and was also a follower of St. John the Forerunner and was one of the people that the Forerunner pointed towards Jesus. Alban Butler, writing in The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and other Principle Saints writes that Philip was present at the Wedding of Cana showing that Philip was with Jesus, and a witness to, all of His works from the start of his earthly ministry.
That Philip was with Jesus from the start of His ministry comes to bear in the answer that Jesus gives to Philip when he asks Jesus to show him the Father. At the Last Supper, Jesus is teaching His apostles for the last time. Jesus is preaching about what is to come and there is confusion among the apostles about what this means. Philip turns to Jesus and asks to be show the father and this dialogue begins:
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father ‘? “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. (John 14:8-10)
In this passage Jesus describes the unity of the Trinity. All of humanity is created in the image and likeness of God but Jesus is the exact image of the Father. Notice that Jesus did not say that He is the Father Jesus declares that He and the Father are of one essence with an undivided nature but are different in the Godhead. Philip opens the door for this explanation of how we are to see Jesus and the Father. We if we reject Jesus, and His teachings, we reject the Father. Jesus clearly states that He is not speaking on His own authority but by “the Father who dwells in Him” and this is the way we who teach the faith should speak, not on our own authority but by the father who dwells in each of us.
Again, according to tradition, Philip spoke Greek and was the link with the Greek speaking community. He would latter preach in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia. He was sent out to those who sat in darkness. He died by being hung on a cross by his feet.
In the Orthros Hymns of his feast on November 14th we sing
Disciple of the Word, preacher of the truth, you were sent as a ray to enlighten those who sat in the shadow of evil, and to dispel from the earth the mist of godlessness, in order to make all believers son of light and of the day. O holy apostle Philip, we have seen Christ.
Turned upside down on the Cross by your feet which had announced the good news, you joyfully ascend the road to Heaven. Forever in the presence of the Holy Trinity, you see the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Father. Thus we celebrate your sacred memory with love on this feast, O Philip.
Jesus called Philip to follow Him with the words, “Come and see.” Philip called his friend Nathaniel with the same words, “Come and see.” The season that we are about to begin is all about coming and seeing coming and seeing what He has in store for us. We come with the shepherds to see the newborn babe in the manger. We come with the Wise Men, bringing the gifts that we have to offer Him, the gifts that have been given us by God to be used to build up the kingdom of God.
We are now the hands and feet of Christ, we are His apostles and it is up to us to bring the light into the darkened world. As we begin this season of preparation let us prepare ourselves to be that light so that they that sit in darkness will be able to see clearly the love of Christ.
Icon compliments of St. Isaac of Syria Skete