Today, in the Ordinariate (in England & Wales, and Canada), is the Memorial of ‘St John the Apostle in Eastertide’. It was, until its removal by Pope St John XXIII from the revised General Roman Calendar of 1960, kept throughout the Catholic Church as ‘Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, before the Latin Gate’, a name that survived in Archbishop Cranmer’s Calendar of the Book of Common Prayer as ‘St John the Evangelist Ante Portam Latinam’. It also appeared in the calendars of the Anglican and English Missals of the early 20th century, and thus – in those places where that tradition was the practise – the feast continued to be celebrated long after it was dropped in 1960. As was once related to me by a certain Canadian monsignor (and this explains the Canadian patrimonial provision for today’s observance), the Anglican Society of Saint John the Evangelist in Canada kept today as their feast day, rather than the 27th December, because that date was both too close to Christmas and in Northern Ontario, too cold for much festivity!
How fitting then, that such a day, no longer universally observed by the majority of Catholics, should find harbour and be celebrated (with the same old Mass propers) in the ordinariates; a practical illustration indeed of that call to ‘maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift’.
‘One day Salome presented her two sons, James and John, to Jesus, and with a mother’s ambition asked Him to grant them the highest places in his Kingdom. In reply, the Saviour spoke of the chalice which He Himself would have to drink, and foretold that these two disciples would also drink of it. The elder, James the Great, was the first to give his Master this proof of his love. John, the younger brother, offered his life in testimony of Jesus’ divinity.
But the martyrdom of the latter Apostle called for a scene worthy of the event. Asia Minor, which his zeal had evangelised, was not a sufficiently glorious land for such a combat. Rome, whither Peter had transferred his Chair and where he died on his cross, and where Paul had bowed down his venerable head beneath the sword, alone deserved the honour of seeing the beloved disciple march on to martyrdom, with that dignity and sweetness which are the characteristics of this veteran of the Apostolic College.
In the year 95 John appeared before the tribunal of pagan Rome. He was convicted of having propagated, in a vast province of the Empire, the worship of a Jew who had been crucified under Pontius Pilate. He was considered a superstitious and rebellious old man, and it was time to rid Asia of his presence. He was, therefore, sentenced to an ignominious and cruel death.
A huge cauldron of boiling oil was prepared in front of the Latin Gate. The sentence ordered that the preacher of Christ be plunged into this bath. The hour had come for the second son of Salome to partake of his Master’s chalice. John’s heart leapt with joy. After cruelly scourging him, the executioners seized the old man, and threw him into the cauldron. But, lo! the boiling liquid lost all its heat; the Apostle felt no scalding. On the contrary, when they took him out again he felt all the vigour of his youthful years restored to him.
The praetor’s cruelty was foiled, and John, a martyr in desire, was to be left to the Church for some few years longer. An imperial decree banished him to the rugged Isle of Patmos, where God revealed to him the future of the Church even to the end of time’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, who with the oil of gladness didst anoint blessed John a companion in the tribulation and patience of the Lord Jesus: grant us likewise to rejoice in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, we may be glad with exceeding joy; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Saint John the Apostle in Eastertide, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon